Tony-winning singer-dancer Ben Vereen, who has suffered more than his share of emotional and physical calamities the past three decades, is back on his feet. He’s just joined the cast of the upcoming Fox TV remake of The Rocky Horror Picture Show as Dr. Everett Scott.
Vereen, who first appeared on Broadway as a replacement Claude in the original production of Hair (1968), then starred in Jesus Christ Superstar (1971) and Pippin (1972), performs his nightclub act at 7 p.m. Sunday at Aventura Arts & Cultural Center. Tickets are $55 to $60 at Ticketmaster.
“It’s a show of gratitude and thanks,” Vereen says. “We’ll go down a journey of where we’ve gone. I’ll play them some new material that I’m recording right now. We’ll share stories about people they’ve allowed me to meet and become friends, talk about that journey we’ve had together.”
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Vereen has had hard luck since the day he was born in Miami 69 years ago. At six months old, he was living in New York. Most bios state he was adopted. Now, he’s not sure. “I don’t know,” he says cryptically. “We’re still putting that piece to the story together.”
About age 20, Vereen met director Bob Fosse, who cast Vereen in a Las Vegas company of Sweet Charity starring Juliet Prowse.
Vereen appeared in the movie version of Charity with Shirley MacLaine; starred in Broadway’s Pippin, winning the Tony; and did a high-profile specialty number in Fosse’s acclaimed autobiographic musical, All That Jazz (1979).
“You work with a great director and the director will tell you what they need,” Vereen says. “The same with film and stage. When you’re on stage, of course, it’s live. There’s no repeating the scene over and over again. That’s different than film. In film you work with a crew and you work with the elements. And so according to the elements you’re in, that’s how your performance will be.”
In 1987, his 16-year-old daughter, Naja, died in a New Jersey auto accident. Five years later, Vereen almost died after record producer David Foster accidentally plowed into him as he walked along the Pacific Coast Highway.
Vereen suffered major internal injuries and a broken femur. He’d later need knee replacement surgery and in 2007 was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. In 2012, he and his wife of 36 years, Nancy, divorced.
Remarkably, though, Vereen keeps on going.
“You just want to give. Serve,” he says. “I’ve been blessed. To be talking today, I’ve been highly blessed.”
If you go
▪ What: Ben Vereen in concert
▪ Where: Aventura Arts & Cultural Center, 3385 NE 188th St., Aventura
▪ When: 7 p.m. Sunday
▪ Tickets: $55 to $60 at Ticketmaster.com