By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Film, TV and stage personality Ben Vereen has been blessed to have a 50-year career, one that has been honored by colleges around the nation and most award shows.
The legendary performer is touring the world to say “thank you” to fans for supporting him and allowing him to make audiences smile.
The 72-year-old “Roots” star is set to play two shows at the Musical Instrument Museum at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturday, April 20.
“I look forward to meeting the people of Phoenix who built such a beautiful facility,” Vereen says. “I love Phoenix. I love Tucson. I love Arizona. I love getting back there.”
Vereen calls his show “fun;” makes sense for the entertainer who was anointed the “minister of fun” by his spiritual leader.
“I hope the audience likes it,” Vereen says about his multifaceted show. “It’s a special show. Our mantra is, ‘If it’s not fun, don’t do it. If you got to do it, make it fun.’”
Vereen even keeps his conversations fun. He doesn’t tire of his career because one thing keeps him inspired: Employment.
“Seriously, the opportunities are there,” he says. “I thank the public for that. They say, ‘We like you’ and then they call me. I get the opportunity to give to you what I have from within.”
Vereen continued his momentum by guest starring on season three of Fox Television’s “Star” as Calvin Brown, the father of Queen Latifah and Brandy’s characters, Carlotta and Cassie, respectively. Brown molested Carlotta when she was a child. Patti LaBelle played his wife, Christine Brown.
“You can’t get better than that,” he says with a laugh about LaBelle. “It’s phenomenal. The character I play is not a very likeable character, but it’s stuff that needs to be discussed.”
On the music side, Vereen is performing this month at Dizzy’s Club at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City April 4 to April 7. He and his musicians will be joined by The Juilliard Jazz Ensemble. Wynton Marsalis recruited Vereen to perform there as a tribute to his “friends, peers and people whose talents have influenced me through the artistry of big-band musicians.
“I’m really looking forward to that,” he adds. “Things are coming up every day. All I say is, ‘That’s for the book.’”
He’ll have plenty to say. His acting abilities have garnered him several nominations and awards. For his work on “Grey’s Anatomy,” he earned a Prism Award, while he was nominated for an Emmy for “Intruders: They Are Among Us.” Vereen also has seven Emmy Awards under his belt for “Ben Vereen: His Roots” and a Golden Globe nom for “Ellis Island.”
He doesn’t keep any of his awards at his home. Instead, he donates them to Boston University, which is archiving his career.
“The accolades are wonderful and marvelous and I thank the people for acknowledging me,” Vereen says. “My want is to continue to give them what I do and then allowing me to do that. The opportunity to give is more satisfying.”
What: Ben Vereen
When: 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturday, April 20
Where: Musical Instrument Museum, 4725 E. Mayo Boulevard, Phoenix
Info: 480-478-6000, mim.org
Ben Vereen donates his awards to Boston University, which is archiving his career. (Photo by Isak Tiner)