July 20--CLAYTON -- Ben Vereen calls his "Steppin' Out Live" show a smorgasbord. Based on his expansive career, he has a lot to serve up.
The actor, dancer and singer will dish out a variety of music tonight at the Clayton Opera House as he looks back on his career.
Among his Broadway credits, Mr. Vereen, 66, has starred in "Wicked," "Fosse," "I'm Not Rappaport," "Hair," "Jelly's Last Jam" and "Jesus Christ Superstar." His role as Leading Player in "Pippin" garnered him a Tony Award and Drama Desk Award for best actor in a musical.
His most famous television role was Chicken George in "Roots." He also has played Louis Armstrong in the TV movie "Louis Armstrong -- Chicago Style." Other television credits range from "Grey's Anatomy" to recent and upcoming appearances on "How I Met Your Mother."
Film credits for Mr. Vereen include "Sweet Charity," "All That Jazz," "And Then Came Love" and "The Painting." You'll be able to hear Mr. Vereen's voice later this year in the animated movie "Khumba," about a half-striped zebra.
For more than 35 years, Mr. Vereen has showcased his versatility in person by performing one-man shows in the United States, Europe, Asia and the Caribbean.
In a phone interview on Wednesday, Mr. Vereen, who was born in Florida but grew up in Brooklyn, was asked if he had a favorite component of his entertainment smorgasbord.
"Yes," he said, laughing. "I call it employment."
But turning to his live show, he said it has a particular focus.
"It all settles upon the same thing: gratitude."
Mr. Vereen is thankful that people come to his concerts by the scores.
"I love what I do and I'm blessed to be able to do what I do," he said. "I've never been in this region of the United States," he said, referring his trip to Clayton. "People are coming out to see me and they're the ones who continue to allow me to do what I do. My show is really a thank-you to them. It's inspiring. And we'll inspire each other."
His show, he said, is also a thank-you to "all the people I've had the opportunity to work with and people I've helped along the way."
His "Steppin' Out" songs include tunes from Broadway, songs made famous by Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra, as well as "personal songs."
He will perform with a band: Mike Boone on bass, David Loeb on keyboard and Mark Dicciani on drums.
Mr. Vereen said he is writing a biography and a Broadway show.
"It's based upon pretty much what you will see (in Clayton)," he said of his Broadway show. "It's a one-man show, but broader scope, allowing more time for monologues and for me to delve into the wonderful things lived through."
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