With his bubbling personality and his undeniable talent, Ben Vereen has undoubtedly captured the hearts of many throughout his 35-year career.

He wowed audiences with his Broadway performances in Jesus Christ Superstar, Jelly’s Last Jam and Hair, and won a prestigious Tony Award for his role in Pippin. Additionally, he’s appeared in a string of television shows, including the classic Roots, in which he played the memorable role of Chicken George.

Vereen got his start in theater at a young age and explained that throughout his life, the arts are what have kept him grounded.

“The arts was the one thing that helped me make decisions in my life and what direction to go to,” Vereen told the AFRO in a recent interview. “It’s been very lucrative and I’ve been very blessed to go this way.”

But while he’s experienced a great deal of success throughout his tenure in show business, he’s also endured a considerable amount of tough times.

In the late ‘80s, Vereen’s life was shaken up after his daughter was killed in a car accident. The incident cast him adrift in a sea of despair and caused him to pick up a drug habit.

“I fell into addictions,” Vereen said. “I went through a whole gamut of life…When you lose a child, you never get over that, you just learn to live with it. It’s a scar that’s permanent.”

Then, a few years later, he was involved in an accident that left him countless injuries and forced him to go through months of rehabilitation. He explained that through these experiences, he ultimately relied on God to get him through.

“I just realized that by myself, I could do nothing, but there’s a power greater than myself that could restore me if I trust it,” Vereen said. “ laid in the seed of prayer and surrender.”

Adding to his string of hardships, he was later diagnosed with diabetes. But after putting his misfortunes behind him, he pushed forward and used the lessons he learned to help inspire and encourage others. He has become one of the most requested speakers on the lecture circuit among audiences of all ages.

On May 16, Vereen will come to Baltimore to perform at the Edward A. Myerberg Senior Center’s annual fundraising gala at the Beth El Congregation Center. The event will raise funds for the center and allows it to continue its service to over 5,000 seniors in the community. At the gala, Vereen will perform many of his Broadway hits and also speak to audiences about his life and career.

“ can expect to be inspired, uplifted and set free,” Vereen said, speaking about the event.

Though he’s already appeared in a myriad of productions, television shows and movies, Vereen’s résumé continues to expand. In February, he released his first CD, Ben Vereen Stepping out Live, which comprises many of his most famous Broadway selections. Also, this summer will mark his return to Broadway, as he has quite a few productions currently in the works.

“I’ve been blessed in everything that I’ve done,” Vereen said. Life is good…It’s been a good run.”

The Edward A. Meyerberg Center will present ‘An Evening with Ben Vereen’ on May 16 at the Beth El Congregation. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit: www.myerbergseniorcenter.org.

 

Gregory Dale

AFRO News Editor