Ben Vereen (born October 10, 1946 in Miami, Florida) is an American actor, dancer, and singer who has appeared in numerous Broadway theatre shows. Vereen graduated from Manhattan's High School of Performing Arts.



He was nominated for a Tony Award for Jesus Christ Superstar in 1972 and won a Tony for his appearance in Pippin in 1973. Vereen appeared in the Broadway musical Wicked as the Wizard of Oz in 2005. Vereen has also performed in one-man shows and actively lectures on black history and inspirational topics.


He has also starred in numerous television programs and films. Notable film roles include song-and-dance men in Funny Lady and All That Jazz. He appeared on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air episode, “Papa’s Got a Brand New Excuse", in which he played Will Smith's biological father. He starred in the television series Tenspeed and Brown Shoe, but is probably best known for his role as "Chicken George" Moore in Roots. He also appeared as Mayor Ben (a leopard) on Zoobilee Zoo. He also appeared on the television series The Nanny episode, "Pishke Business". In 2010 he appeared on the television series "How I Met Your Mother" episode, "Cleaning House".

Personal life

According to the Fayetteville Observer of April 29, 2006, Vereen learned while applying for a passport in the late 1960s that he was adopted. His birth certificate revealed that his birth name was Benjamin Augustus Middleton, that he was the son of Essie Middleton, and that he was born in Laurinburg, NC. In April 2006, Vereen visited Laurinburg with a genealogist and learned that his mother's name was Essie May Pearson, who had died 24 years before. According to her acquaintances, Essie had gone on a trip when Ben was a child, and had left her baby in someone's care. When she returned, the child was gone. In May 2006, he met his mother's daughter, his sister, Gloria Walker, of New Haven, Connecticut.[1] He also has a brother, James Middleton, who lives in Tucson, Arizona.

Vereen is the godfather of R&B superstar Usher. Vereen was the keynote speaker for the Boys & Girls Clubs in St. Petersburg, Florida annual alumni tribute gala held in October 2007.

In 1992 he crashed his car on the Pacific Coast Highway and while walking around in a daze he was struck by a car driven by producer David Foster. Despite being thrown 90 feet, Vereen survived. He went on record to say that the accident had probably saved his life: he had a serious drinking problem caused by the death of his daughter.[2][3] After the accident, Vereen required special rehabilitation to regain his ability to speak.[4]

In 2007 he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and has a website in which he shares his personal story along with advice from medical experts.[5]




Television work

Stage Work

  • The Prodigal Son (1965) (Off-Broadway)
  • Sweet Charity (1967–1968) (Las Vegas and Canada)
  • Hair (April 29, 1968 - July 1, 1972) (Broadway, Los Angeles, and national tour) (alternated roles of Hud and Berger, 1968)
  • Golden Boy (1968) (Chicago)
  • Gurton's Apocalyptic Needle, The Holy Ghostly & Melodrama Play (1970) (The New Troupe, National & International Tour) (Alternated roles in each play each performance)
  • No Place to Be Somebody (1970–1971) (national tour)
  • Jesus Christ Superstar (October 12, 1971 - June 30, 1973) (replaced by Carl Anderson when he fell ill, and then both took turns) (Broadway)
  • Pippin (October 23, 1972 - June 12, 1974) (Broadway) (left show in 1973 for national tour, returned in early 1974)
  • Grind (April 16 - June 22, 1985) (replaced by Obba Babatunde) (Broadway)
  • I'm Not Rappaport (1989) (San Francisco)
  • Jelly's Last Jam (April 26, 1992 - September 5, 1993) (replacement for Keith David) (Broadway)
  • A Christmas Carol (1995–1996) (Madison Square Garden)
  • Chicago (1999) (U.S. and Canada national tour)
  • Fosse (January 14, 1999 - August 25, 2001) (Broadway) (joined cast in 2001)
  • I'm Not Rappaport (July 25 - September 8, 2002) (Broadway and national tour) (Revival)
  • The Exonerated (2003) (Off-Broadway)
  • Wicked (replacement for George Hearn from May 31, 2005 - January 18, 2006) (Broadway)


  1. WTNH news
  2. David Foster: Hitman, Huffington Post, 2 December 2008.
  3. New York Times, June 10, 1992
  4. ASHA podcast Episode 16
  5. [1]

External links

  1. REDIRECT Template:IMDb name
  1. REDIRECT Template:TonyAward MusicalLeadActor 1948–1975
nl:Ben Vereen

no:Ben Vereen fi:Ben Vereen sv:Ben Vereen

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