Saturday, April 13, 2013

Vereen's one-man show takes time to reflect, appreciate and boost the arts

This publicity photo shows Vereen's joy
in life and his engaging personality.

Ben Vereen's one-man show was filled with music and show biz anecdotes, delivered with the spirit and personality that have made him a favorite with audiences since he landed a role in "Sweet Charity" decades ago on Broadway.

But during his week in San Diego, the star also chatted about his personal life -- losing a daughter in a car accident, which led him to reach out to other grieving parents.  And he talked about his own 1992 life-altering accident car-pedestrian accident which experts predicted would end his career.

After he was struck by a car, the resulting major head injuries and broken bones threatened to take him off the stage for good.
The actor said he was told that he might not perform again -- ever -- but thanks to the fine care he received, his persistence, and encouragement from thousands of fans, he was entertaining before the end of the year. "You made it happen," he told the applauding audience. "You were there for me."

Ever thankful for his rebound, Vereen thanked the medical staff, including his therapist whom he beckoned on stage to receive his kudos and applause from the audience.
And he called on a doctor friend to lead a rousing chorus of "The Star Spangled Banner" -- a surprise pulled on his gifted trio, one they accommodated with flourish. The audience sounded great, using the "doctor's orders" key of G to allow for reaching the high octaves without strain.

Vereen is a man of infinite talent and generosity and sincerity as large. His career takes the Tony winner touring, performing with symphonies and in arts centers.  And while he has been known to musical theater fans for decades, millions more know him better for his "Chicken George" role in Alex Haley's award-winning "Roots" miniseries. But this show was all about music!

From "I've Got Magic To Do," a "Pippin" favorite, to "I Don't Know How to Love Him" from "Jesus Christ Superstar," then on to standards of the '50s, '60s and '70s, Vereen dressed the stage like a bantam rooster with rhythm and class. He also had the audience singing the praises of the arts, clapping and rocking out to boost arts attendance. "We must support the arts. It is vital to our country and culture."

Flirting with the audience, and playing to his sister and local San Diego musician friends, he put his energy into non-stop delight.  No intermission for this guy!  He was having too much fun.
Vereen's joy in what he does continued as he introduced his trio one by one and gave each gifted man a solo, with Vereen "accompanying" on voice.

Drummer Marc Dicciani, bass player Thomas Kennedy and keyboard player and musical director David Loeb played their show pieces with intensity, displaying their indispensable and flawless contributions to the show.  With Vereen on vocals, they simply dazzled.

Bravo, Ben, and bravo, la Jolla Playhouse, for this fabulous venue.
Vereen hinted that the "Steppin' Out Live" show is "a work in progress," and although it has already dazzled in Europe and Australia, Vereen said it is bound for a larger venue, perhaps Broadway.
We'll cross our fingers and hope this comes to pass.  For Ben Vereen has more magic to do!

Arslan Redzepovic is not Greek, but he
loves the culture and serves up fabulous
Greek fare at Arslan's Gyros.
For schedules and other performances at this venue, go to
For more on Vereen's life, his recordings and performing arts history, simply google Ben Vereen.

COMING next:
A family owned and operated Greek restaurant in Pacific Beach does a booming business with its authentic and delicious Mediterranean specialties.  Dad and "the kids" make the delectable sandwiches and gyros and more. Mom keeps everything running smoothly and bakes fabulous baklava!
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which posts on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Take time to explore, learn and live!

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