Ben Vereen is Steppin’ In at ECU

Published 12:52 am Wednesday, November 2, 2011

You may have watched his Emmy nominated performance in “Roots.”  You might have seen him on Broadway in “Wicked.” You could turn on the TV at 8 p.m. every Monday night to catch his recurring role as Wayne Brady’s father on CBS’s “How I Met Your Mother.”

Or you could go see Ben Vereen this Friday night in Greenville, performing his one man show “Steppin’ Out with Ben Vereen” at East Carolina University’s Wright Auditorium.

Ben Vereen, actor, singer, dancer, brings his one man show “Steppin’ Out with Ben Vereen” to ECU’s Wright Auditorium Friday night. (Contributed Photo)

Based on his CD, “Steppin’ Out with Ben Vereen,” Vereen’s show is a combination of the best of Broadway and a tribute to a few entertainment industry greats he counts as his greatest influences.

“I’ve worked with Bob Fosse, Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra,” Vereen said via telephone Monday. “It’s all about sharing those stories.”

Those stories encompass song and dance, live music and comedy, and Vereen brings them to ECU Friday night as a sneak preview, and warm-up, for the show’s arrival on the big stage in New York City in the spring.

“It’s a limited run—a preparation for Broadway,” laughed Vereen. “So help me out, North Carolina!”

Vereen is excited to be performing in North Carolina, but it’s not his first visit here.

Adopted as an infant and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., Vereen visited North Carolina in 2006 with a genealogist in tow to help him track down his birth parents’ family. He found that family, the Pearsons, in the southern portion of the state. A church in Laurinburg, St. John’s, is part of his maternal grandfather’s legacy—a legacy Vereen apparently inherited, not of entertainment, but of service.

Besides starring in such memorable theater productions as “Hair,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and “Fosse,” and his many tv roles and film credits over a 40-year span, Vereen also has an illustrious career serving many different causes, winning multiple Humanitarian Awards. He’s entertained the troops, orchestrated performance arts camps for children, and currently serves as a spokesperson for “S.T.A.N.D,” a diabetes awareness campaign.

“I want to show people they can live with diabetes,” said Vereen, who was diagnosed in 2007 with type 2 diabetes.

Vereen credits his humanitarian impulses to the same source of his love of performance:  “I’m a people person. I love to inspire people.”

Vereen has inspired many through his performances, whether dancing, acting, or singing, though he personally doesn’t pick favorites.

“I’ve had a wonderfully illustrious career.  I’ve worked with so many wonderful people,” Vereen said, of the various roles he’s played. “It’s like having children. I love them all.”