Vereen follows his inner voice

Ben Vereen, a multi-talented performer, will be presenting his one-man show here in Bayside at the end of September.
Born Oct 10, 1946 and raised in Brooklyn, Vereen always knew he wanted to be a performer. When asked why he chose the profession, Vereen replied, “It chose me.” He started on his career path early by singing in local choirs. Later, he developed his array of talents while attending the NYC School for Performing Arts. Now after decades of success he is bringing his show to Queens.
During a recent telephone interview with The Queens Courier, Vereen remarked, “You have to look inside yourself for motivation and then follow the ‘inner voice’ which tells you when and what you must do.” This helped him survive “the greatest tragedy in my life - the death of my daughter,” a 16-year-old who died in an auto accident.
This same “inner voice” also helped him after his own personal crisis, a heart attack, when he decided not to retire but to undergo extensive rehab in order to continue his already successful career. He said he got strength “from the inner voice - that told him to go on.”
Now, in addition to his busy performing schedule, he still finds time to visit rehab centers and encourage people there since he knows what it is like to be in rehab.
In addition, Vereen has become a motivational speaker and has received the Eleanor Roosevelt Humanitarian Award. A very spiritual man, he has also become an ordained minister.
Following his “inner voice” has helped him prepare for roles that have earned him many awards over his 40-plus years of entertaining including a Tony, an Emmy and a Drama Desk Award. When asked which media he preferred, he answered succinctly “employment.”
In 1977, Vereen’s role as Chicken George in “Roots” earned him an Emmy nomination. In discussing that groundbreaking series, he said, “It was the first time slavery was given such prominence.” It was also the first time slavery had been “as exposed as was the Holocaust” because the series was watched by millions of viewers.
When asked if he had had a mentor, Vereen replied that he had had “several” but his praise was especially strong for Frank Sinatra for breaking the “color line” by having Sammy Davis Jr. and other talented black performers join him in his act.
Vereen’s outstanding Broadway performances include appearing in “Pippin,” “Fosse,” “Chicago,” Christ Superstar” and more recently as the Wizard in “Wicked.”
In films, his credits include “Funny Lady” and “All That Jazz.” As a traveling performer, he has appeared in Las Vegas, Europe, Asia and in the Caribbean.
All this talent will be showcased when he appears at the Queensborough Performing Arts Center (QPAC) on Sunday, September 30 at 3 p.m. QPAC is located at Queensborough Community College, 222-05 56th Avenue, Bayside. For more information and reservations, call 718-631-6311 Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

More from Around New York