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Ben Vereen Performs With Message of Gratitude and Acceptance

Broadway legend Ben Vereen (Photo by Isak Tiner).

Broadway legend Ben Vereen (Photo by Isak Tiner).

Broadway performer Ben Vereen gave a show at the Freed Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday Jan. 28, dancing and singing through pieces from his various performances and others that were close to him while he speaking on the importance of equality and the arts. 

Vereen’s set list included songs from the musicals such as Pippin, Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, Wicked, Golden Boys and others.  Many of the songs he performed came with stories about his relationship with the authors and how much he admired the lyrics.  He also included songs by Frank Sinatra, songs like, “Mr. Bojangles”.  Vereen also mentioned playwrights such as Stephen Schwarts, who wrote Wicked, and performers such as Liza Minnelli that are important to him.

The show was meant to convey the theme of gratitude for Vereen’s fans and supporters throughout his career saying, “The show is a thank you my audiences throughout all these years.”

Mixed between Vereen’s musical performances, he gave commentary on areas such as the arts and parts of his story that are important to who is today.  A video clip from the "Mike Douglas Show" introduced the audience to Vereen’s relationship with Sammy Davis Jr. and the impact Davis had on him as a young performer. 

Vereen also spoke about his tragic auto accident with David Foster that nearly ended his career, but was revitalized with his role in Jelly’s Last Jam in 1993.  He continued to thank the current audience and all of his past ones for sending him support in his direst time, recovering from the accident.

The enthusiastic programs of the art at ONU became a topic of interest for Vereen, encouraging students to continue pursuing all forms of art.  He took a candid stance against those who think art has no value in the current world, stating that:

 We are walking, talking art pieces.  

He also encouraged dreamers and anyone who works hard to respect those whose backs they stand on in their journey.   Vereen’s passion by one of the final songs in the performance, a rendition of Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me”, urging the audience to actually stand up for the arts as they need to be allowed to flourish.

“You never know, they may be one person in the crowd who gets the bug and they will be come the next Stephen Schwartz, the next whoever,” Vereen says. 

Vereen gave an encore performance to a standing ovation, thanking the audience then stepping off stage.  After the show he had a met and greet with students and guests, showing his appreciation for their support.