When Broadway's Fosse company welcomes Ben Vereen Jan. 26 for 10 weeks, he takes over some of the material traditionally played by the show's female "leading player" character, singing "Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries" and "Bye Bye Blackbird."
The role was recently played by Stephanie Pope, who left the troupe Jan. 21; Angel Creeks sang and danced it Jan. 21-25. Vereen and the newly modified role and show debut Jan. 26 at the Broadhurst Theatre. The tracks for the Tony Award-winning actor now includes "Dancin' Dan," "Razzle Dazzle," "Mr. Bojangles" and "Manson Trio," which he famously danced in Bob Fosse's Pippin (earning him the Tony), and more.
Vereen, 54, is no stranger to being a "leading player" in a show linked to choreographer-director Bob Fosse. "Leading Player" was the character he performed in Fosse's staging of Pippin in 1972. "The Manson Trio" is the slinky straw-hat number he danced with two women in Pippin's famous TV ad. Vereen performed a featured part in Fosse's autobiographical film, "All That Jazz."
Vereen is sticking with the Fosse company through April 1, during the period when Broadway shows see a slump in sales due to cold weather. Vereen's presence at the Broadhurst is likely to heat up the already warm box office for the revue, which won the 1999 Best Musical Tony Award.
* Vereen heads a cast of 32 dancers, featuring Eugene Fleming, Dana Moore, Elizabeth Parkinson, Keith Roberts and Scott Wise, all performing late director-choreographer Fosse's great — and lesser-known — musical numbers from his stage, film and television hits.
In Pippin, Vereen sang "Magic to Do," a kind of signature song for the actor-dancer, but the tune is not being interpolated into Fosse for his tenure. He recently played Billy Flynn (singing "Razzle Dazzle") in the Fosse-style revival of Chicago, in Las Vegas. The actor-dancer made headlines when he survived a near-fatal accident and went on to appear in Broadway's Jelly's Last Jam. He also appeared in Broadway's original Jesus Christ Superstar and Grind, and the Madison Square Garden production of A Christmas Carol. His official website is at www.BenVereen.com.
Tickets are $35-$85. The Broadhurst is at 235 W. 44th Street. For ticket information, call (212) 582-1200.