Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Vereen Will Be 'Steppin;Out'

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Vereen Will Be 'Steppin;Out'

Article excerpt

Ben Vereen is in the mood for celebrating life, as well as his career and his fans, as he prepares for three shows at the Venice Theatre Friday and Saturday.

His show "Steppin' Out with Ben Vereen" is "sort of biographical, but it's a celebration of my audience," he says in a telephone interview before a recent rehearsal. "I love my audiences."

It's a starting point, he says, of the process to create a new show that will be called "From Brooklyn to Broadway" and bring him back to Broadway, where he won a Tony Award for his starring role in "Pippin" and another nomination for playing Judas in the original production of "Jesus Christ Superstar."

"We're working on that. I have a book writer. We're talking to various directors. We're in the stage of just beginning to get it all together," he says with the kind of enthusiasm that audiences associate with his performances.

Reviewing his "Steppin' Out" show last summer at the new cabaret venue 54 Below, The New York Times wrote, "In the tradition of his idol, Sammy Davis Jr., Mr. Vereen is an old-school song and dance man who never lets up. He wins you over with his sheer energy, good will and showbiz know-how. The excitement he generates is what matters."

And that's because the audience matters. "I praise my audiences for keeping me going, for supporting the theater, the arts. I wouldn't be anywhere without them."

After winning fans on stage, Vereen earned an Emmy Award nomination for his role as Chicken George in Alex Haley's "Roots," which was recently re-broadcast on television.

"People still come up and grab me and say that it meant so much to them," he says of "Roots." "I had no idea we'd still be talking about it today. But there had never been anything like it. I wanted something on the air that we could all relate to, and this is where my heritage came from, and this holocaust of my heritage. But slavery is still going on, not here, but around the world, so the world hasn't learned its lesson yet, this inhumanity to man and woman, and mainly women, it has to stop. …

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