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Ben  Vereen

Ben Vereen

Award-Winning Entertainer

Biography

Few entertainers today are as accomplished or versatile as Ben Vereen. His legendary performances transcend time and have been woven into the fabric of this country’s artistic legacy. His first love and passion is and always will be the stage. Read More >

“The theater was my first training ground. It taught me discipline, dedication and appreciation of hard work and values that will stay with me a lifetime. The stage sharpens the creative instrument and encourages you to go deeper inside and try new things,” states Ben. On Broadway, Ben Vereen has starred in Wicked, Fosse, I’m Not Rappaport, Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, Pippin, Grind, Jelly’s Last Jam and A Christmas Carol. His role in Pippin garnered him both the prestigious Tony Award and the Drama Desk Award for “Best Actor in a Musical.”

Ben has two new TV series airing this season; the new Amazon TV series Sneaky Pete produced by David Shore and Bryan Cranston, which aired on Jan 13th and was just picked up for a second season, and the new 20th Century Fox show Making History starring alongside Leighton Meester, Adam Pally, and Yassir Lester, airing in May. He starred in the Rocky Horror Picture Show for Twentieth Century Fox directed by Kenny Ortega and starring alongside Laverne Cox, Tim Curry, Reeve Carney, Christina Milian, and Victoria Justice, which aired on October 20th. Ben is currently working on his return to Broadway with his new show Triumph of the Spirit.

In January 2016, Ben signed with Americans for the Arts and spoke at the Democratic Convention in July 2016. Ben recently joined fellow Broadway stars including Audra McDonald, Idina Menzel and others, to promote peace and support Hillary Clinton singing "What the World Needs Now is Love" at the Democratic National Convention.

Ben starred alongside Richard Gere in Time Out of Mind and received a Variety Oscar Critic’s Pick mention! John Secor of the Sarasota Film Festival reported, “Ben Vereen is given his most textured role in years, and his sensitive performance reminds us why he’s a legend.” Ben also costarred in Chris Rock’s Top Five, which opened to rave reviews. Ben starred in the world premiere of Fetch Clay, Make Man directed by Des McAnuff (Jersey Boys).

While performing worldwide, Ben’s acting credits continue to give us memorable roles that stand the test of time such as the unforgettable Chicken George in Roots and Louis Armstrong in Louis Armstrong - Chicago Style. Ben’s television guest appearances include How I Met Your Mother, Grey’s Anatomy (for which he won the Prism Award), Hot in Cleveland (with Betty White), NCIS, House of Payne, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, OZ, Star Trek - The Next Generation, The Jamie Fox Show, and Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Ben has also had recurring roles on Silk Stalkings, Webster, and J.J. Starbuck and Booker. For Nickelodeon, Ben provided voice-overs on the show Wonder Pets! Additional credits include: Anne Rice’s Feast of All Saints (Showtime), Intruders They Are Among Us (Emmy nomination), Zoobilee Zoo, Faerie Tale Theatre’s Puss N’ Boots with Gregory Hines, The Jesse Owens Story, Ellis Island (Golden Globe Nomination), Lost in London, and Salute to Liberty Special. His own network television shows are Ben Vereen: His Roots (Seven Emmy Awards), Tenspeed and Brownshoe and You Write the Songs. In the early 90’s, he released a number of well-received children’s Sing-Along musical videos. 

Ben was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for his performance in the Hallmark movie An Accidental Friendship. He appeared in the features, 21 and a Wake-Up starring Faye Dunaway and Mama, I Want to Sing! in which Ben co-starred opposite Ciara and Patti LaBelle. While filming Idlewild with the award winning group Outkast, Ben also served as the acting coach for both Andre 3000 and Big Boy. In addition, Ben has been coaching the singing sensation Usher both as an entertainer and an actor. Ben was featured in the movie, On The One - Preaching to the Choir directed by Charles Randolph-Wright. Other film credits include Sweet Charity, All That Jazz, Funny Lady (Golden Globe nomination), Why Do Fools Fall in Love, And Then Came Love starring Vanessa Williams, the animated movies Khumba and Once Upon a Forest, Christmas in Washington and The Painting which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. In 2004, Ben was nominated for a “Career Achievement Award” by the Le Prix International Film Star Awards Organization.

For over 40 years, Ben has showcased his versatility and creativity, performing countless one-man shows in the United States, Europe, Asia and the Caribbean. He was the first simultaneous winner of the “Entertainer of the Year,” “Rising Star,” and “Song and Dance Star” awards from the American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA). He also earned a coveted spot in the Casino Legends Hall of Fame. Ben and his trio are currently touring his one man show, “Steppin’ Out with Ben Vereen.” He also performs with symphonies around the country.

The lecture circuit has become an integral part of Ben’s career, as he has become one of the Nations’ most requested speakers among audiences of all ages. His strong sense of social consciousness has enabled him to reach out to his audiences and convey to them a deep feeling of understanding. His topics range from overcoming adversity, arts in education, Black history, motivational topics, Broadway lecture with song, recovery through physical and occupational therapy and the importance of continuing education - to name a few.

Ben’s gift of time has benefited many organizations. He has served on Ballet Florida’s Board of Directors, the American Red Cross and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Association. In 1989, he spearheaded his own organization, “Celebrities for a Drug Free America,” which raised money for drug rehabilitation centers, educational programs and inner city community-based projects. The Community Mental Health Council awarded Ben with their 2004 Lifeline Celebration Achievement Award. For his humanitarian contributions, he has received a number of awards including Israel's Cultural and Humanitarian Awards, three NAACP Image Awards, an Eleanor Roosevelt Humanitarian Award and a Victory Award. He has received honorary doctorates from the University of Arizona, Emerson College, St. Francis College, and Columbia College in Chicago. In 2001, Medgar Evers College created the Ben Vereen Scholarship for the Performing Arts, and in 2004, he received an Achievement in Excellence Award from his alma mater, the High School of the Performing Arts.

Ben celebrated Eartha Kitt’s 80th birthday in concert at Carnegie Hall to multiple standing ovations and in front of the Armed Forces for those men and women who have served in Iraq, truly a major highlight of his career. In 2009, he performed at the Inaugural Ball and entertained at the reopening of the Ford Theatre in Washington, D.C., which was attended by President Obama. Ben entertained at the Friar’s Club gala honouring CBS president Leslie Moonves. Soon after, Ben led ongoing diabetes awareness campaign called “S.T.A.N.D.” in partnership with Sanofi-Aventis pharmaceuticals.

In February of 2011, Ben released his CD Steppin’ Out Live with Ben Vereen and staged a triumphant return to Broadway with his concert “Ben Vereen on Broadway at Town Hall.”

On January 30th, 2012, Ben was inducted in to The Theatre Hall of Fame. He performed for 100,000 people at the Washington Monument on July 4th and in August, Ben was inducted into the Dance Hall of Fame. Ben also received the Broadwayworld.com 2012 Cabaret Award Best Celebrity Male Vocalist for his dazzling 2 week run at the New York City’s latest music venue 54 Below. In May of 2013, Ben received his honorary degree from the LaGuardia School of Performing Arts.

In 2014, Ben founded the Ben Vereen Awards. The Mission of the Ben Vereen Awards San Diego Competition is to utilize a competitive Tony® Awards style adjudication process, to find the very best of high school musical theater talent in San Diego County; and in collaboration with the National High School Musical Theatre Awards (NHSMTA), to present these talented young performers with a unique scholarship opportunity to advance their educations and careers in the genre of musical theater. The NHSMTA, also known as The Jimmy™ Awards®, is named after Chairman James M. Nederlander. It celebrates outstanding student achievement in high school musical theater in the areas of vocal, dance, and acting performance. 

In 2015, Ben led the American Athletes into the LA Coliseum for The Special Olympics, followed by participating in Producer Nigel Lythgoe’s event in Beverly Hills introducing dance as a competition for the first time in the history of the Special Olympics. At the Dizzy Feet Foundation Gala, Ben presented an award to George Chakiris and Russ Tamblyn the stars of West Side Story. Ben is proud to announce the newly formed organization Wellness Through The Arts, benefiting young people across America. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

Meet Ben Vereen

On Black History

All Stars 2011 Gala Benefit

Speech Topics

Steppin’ Out Live with Ben Vereen

Ben Vereen is currently touring his one man show, Steppin’ Out with Ben Vereen, dazzling audiences throughout the United States.  Ben’s show is a unique blend of artistry, combining a tribute to Broadway, Frank Sinatra, and a very special tribute to Sammy Davis Jr.  Featuring songs such as “Defying Gravity,” “Mr. Bojangles,” “For Good” from Wicked and “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries,” Steppin’ Out with Ben Vereen is a contemporary and timeless journey through the Broadway songbook. Ben promises an evening of song and dance, filled with entertainment and laughter, stories and inspiration!

Learning to Live Again: Ben’s Story of Rehabilitation

After suffering an accident so severe that it nearly took his life, entertainer Ben Vereen required intense physical and occupational therapy to learn to walk, talk, sing, and even live again. In an inspiring and motivating presentation, Vereen share his personal journey and the importance of the rehabilitation he received. He imparts a message of hope, conveying to audiences that, without the help of a dedicated team of doctors, nurses, and physical and occupational therapists, he would not be performing today – or living his life to the fullest.

Special Topics for Black History Month

  • From There to Now: African Americans in the Civil War. Actor and keynote speaker Ben Vereen discusses the roles African Americans played in the Civil War, where these soldiers came from, and how they managed to survive – not only in the army, but as black Americans in a tumultuous time.
  • Black History in Youth. Vereen explores the past and the present, discussing the youth of the black history movement.
  • Holding On to Our Heritage. In schools today there is a lack of black history, claims Ben Vereen. Join him as he poses the question, “How do we hold on to our heritage?”
  • Who Are We Now? Vereen opens up an honest dialogue, asking, “How did we go from being ‘colored’ to being a ‘negro’ to being ‘black’ to being ‘African American’?”
  • From Roots to Now. Ben Vereen, who played “Chicken George” in the iconic miniseries Roots, talks about history through the lens of shooting Roots as well as through the scope of where black history is today.

Overcoming Adversity

Diabetes: Taking Control & Living Your Life

Books & Media

Books

Steppin' Out Live - Audio CD

Connect with Ben Vereen