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May 6, 2009

BEN VEREEN EXHILARATING - LEAPS OFF THE STAGE

(Pictured to the right. Ben Vereen. Courtesy Photo)



By Lee Hartgrave May 6. 2009

BEN VEREEN A TALENT FOR ALL SEASONS

The minute Vereen walks onto the stage you know that you are looking at a star. He has the sway and confidence of a star. His outfit – a red tie and a red scarf over a black long jacket sets the tone. Dazzling is the word. Vereen captures us immediately with (Corner of the Sky) from Pippin, the musical:

Everything has its season
Everything has its time Show me a reason and I’ll soon show you a rhyme
Cats fit on the windowsill
Children fit in the snow
Why do I feel I don’t fit in anywhere I go?


The song fits Vereen perfectly, as it should. He starred in the musical ‘Pippin’ on Broadway. And you know what – you kind of feel that Vereen might have at one time ‘feel like he didn’t fit in anywhere’ – but he sure does now.

What a powerful performer. What a lucky audience -- to have him sing to us. It was an amazing evening of song and dance. How he managed to dance around on a small stage was another wonder that should be in Ripley’s Believe it or Not.


In a tribute to Sammy Davis Junior (he does not imitate, but suggests Sammy) Vereen soars with “Once In A Lifetime.” I have never, ever heard such a fantastic version of this song. This was my ‘Once in a lifetime’ moment. It was totally different, unusual and stirring. As a matter of fact the arrangements were particularly interesting. His piano player tantalizes with his musical talents. He didn’t even need sheet music. He was not just good – HE WAS GREAT! This guy knows how to turn piano keys into color crayons. Everything was a rainbow. It was an extraordinary keyboard show.


In a Sinatra Medley, Vereen talks about “The Chairman of the Board” as Sinatra was known. Vereen gives credit to “The Chairman” who opened some doors for him when he was just starting out in show biz. “He said yes, where others said no!”

– Vereen told us.
Another show- stopper was Vereen’s completely ‘new take’ on the Pajama Game song “Hey There”. It has been recorded and sung by everyone but a chipmunk – but this time it was new. Vereen took this song and turned it upside down. He added a Samba beat to it – and it took off flying around the room. And, it may still be flying around the room – saying to everyone that passes by “Hey There!”

The hands could not stop clapping as Vereen, who was in “Hair” at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco – sang “The Dawning of the Age of Aquarius.” The excitement was too much for the audience. I found out that they were not glued to their seats, when they jumped up and did some bumps and grinds along with their frantic clapping of the hands. It was like a religious experience. I think that the Broadway producers of the “New” Hair on Broadway – should come and see Vereen’s version, and put him in the show.

Vereen when talking about his early days when he was trying to make it: “I have lived long enough to “Be Colored”, I have lived long enough to be Negro”, and I have lived long enough to be Black”, and I have lived long enough to be African American.” And I would like to add to that: “He has lived long enough to become one of the greatest talents on the planet.”

WHEN YOU GO:

WED, THURS, FRI, - 8Pm. Sat & Sun. 7Pm.

WHERE: The Rrazz Room
Hotel Nikko – Corner of Mason and O’Farrell.

http//www.therrazzroom.com/

More reviews at: www.beyondchron.org

www.leehartgrave.net.

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