I meandered around the Capezio flagship store for about thirty minutes, simultaneously imagining my dream dance-wear closet and anxiously eyeing the clock above the elevator. It was almost noon, and in just a few minutes Ben Vereen would be walking into the store for his “Meet and Greet” event. I sat down on a bench and began fiddling with my phone to pass the time. After a few minutes I looked up and saw Mr. Vereen enter the store. I think he spotted me smiling from ear to ear because he walked straight to me and began to introduce himself. “Oh my goodness,” I began, “You don’t have to introduce yourself. I’m here to see you!”
He shook my hand as I stood up beside him. He was shorter than me, shorter than I’d imagined (though I’m rather tall). I remember watching the PBS performance of “Fosse” on a VHS my dad helped me record (and I decorated with golden star stickers and bubble letters). I wasn’t obsessed with the Backstreet Boys or N’Sync when I was 10. No, I was obsessed with all things Fosse. I would watch the VHS (that’s “video home system” for all you youngin’s) over and over, trying to memorize and replicate the silky smooth choreography of Ben Vereen, Rachelle Rak, and Dana Moore. My dad gave memy grandfather’s old English bowler hat so that I could practice flipping and twirling the cap with ease. My dad even helped me build a dance cane (we took a wooden pole from Home Depot, painted it black, and nailed two chair-leg protectors to either end). Long story short, meeting Ben Vereen was a dream come true!
Broadway legend and Tony Award winner Ben Vereen brings his hit show, Steppin’ Out with Ben Vereen, to 54 Below, July 10 – 21! A high energy tribute to the music of Broadway, along with musical selections made famous by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr., audiences can expect to hear classics such as “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries”, “Mr. Bojangles” and even “Defying Gravity”. Well known to theatre audiences for his Tony and Drama Desk winning performance in Pippin, Vereen has also appeared on Broadway in Wicked, Chicago, Fosse and Jelly’s Last Jam. Television audiences will remember him from his celebrated portrayal of Chicken George in Roots, along with recent appearances on How I Met Your Mother, Grey’s Anatomy (Prism Award) and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. In January, 2012, Mr. Vereen was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame. 54 Below (254 W. 54th St. cellar)