Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Ben Vereen's one-man show dazzles with song, dance, anecdotes

Actor Ben Vereen is touring a fast-paced
one man show which may appear
in an expanded version down the road.

For fans of singing, dancing, and good, old-fashioned entertainment, Ben Vereen's "Stepping Out Live..." show is a classic.

Recently, the veteran song-and-dance pro played a long, sold-out weekend run at La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego.  His energetic and warmly received show featured a brilliant trio backing him up on a range of hits and favorites, from "Chicago" to the title song from "Hair."  Vereen, ever gracious, shared the spotlight with stories about his mentors and colleagues, dedicating particular songs to them.  The audience reveled in a string of brilliantly arranged songs, highlights of his long Broadway career.

Dressed snappily in a silk suit with a purple dress shirt and purple tennis shoes, Vereen made the stage his own from the opening until his encore, with three standing ovations in between.  Near the beginning, he put his spin on "The King and I," with renditions of "It's a Puzzlement" and "Getting to Know You."
To the latter, he added phrases to further endear him to the La Jolla audience.
 La Jolla Playhouse was packed
last Sunday as the audience
awaited Ben Vereen and his trio.

The guy may be closing in on 67 (he was born in 1946) but in the great show biz tradition he adores, he can move, sing, amuse and entertain with the best of them.
His generous two-hour show packed the Playhouse's Potiker Theater, one of its several main venues.  The house was artfully arranged with cabaret style table seating, creating an intimate venue for the Vereen show and other spring galas and benefits.

In the style of the denizens of "The Rat Pack" and the venerable singing-acting-dancing tradition, Vereen played to the house, with such favorites as "My Way," "Stand By Me" and "Defying Gravity."

His tributes to Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra were laced with anecdotes and affectionate one-line impersonations. His Bob Fosse impression was spot-on, capturing  the minimalist movement and spareness of style, with the subtle hat-and-hand gestures that we identify with Fosse.

Vereen dressed the stage
with energy and grace.
In the style of the old Vaudevillians from which he learned his craft, Vereen told stories -- about meeting Fosse, Juliet Prowse, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and other luminaries, about auditioning for his first big roles, about phoning his mother to report he'd landed a role on Broadway.
 It was all very much like listening to a favorite talented uncle talk about his career, and illustrate it with song after song.

Coming Saturday:
Ben Vereen talks about his personal life and the accident that nearly killed him. He also gives solo time to each man in his gifted trio, commands an enthusiastic group sing of the national anthem, and urges his audience to support the arts as a way to keep lively, current and productive in our challenging and changing world.

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1 comment:

  1. Always have liked Ben Vereen.......1946 was a good year :)