Funny on the fly
Bruce Vilanch steals the show in Pasadena Playhouse’s “Aladdin and His Winter Wish”
By Carl Kozlowski 12/12/2013
By Carl Kozlowski 12/12/2013
Thursday, December 12, 2013
Pasadena, California - Twenty year old Ashley Argota looked gorgeous in a white/blue pattern DLEESWEETS dress with white high heels as she stepped out Wednesday evening to attend the opening night of ‘Aladdin And His Winter Wish’ at the Pasadena Playhouse on December 11, 2013 in Pasadena, California.
Ashley Spencer Argota born January 9, 1993 is an Asian-American actress, singer, and student. She is best known for role as Lulu in the Nickelodeon sitcom True Jackson, VP. She also co-starred as Kelly Peckinpaw in Bucket & Skinner’s Epic Adventures on Nickelodeon.
Photos Credit: Getty Images
by Ed Umbao on December 12, 2013
Filipino-American singer-actress Ashley Argota fulfills her childhood dream as she will be featured in “Aladdin and His Winter Wish,” a holiday production from the creators of “American Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance.”
Watch the video interview of Ashley Argota:
The 20-year-old Ashley Argota is one of the well-known Asian-American stars who made a name for herself as she was featured in the Nickelodeon TV program “True Jackson VP.”
Ashley Argota made her TV debut at an early age of 10 on the talent show “Star Search.” According to Ashley in an interview with ABS-CBN, one of her biggest dreams recently came true.
She was quoted as saying “I had it on my goal sheet, I wanted to be on a Disney Channel movie and it happened finally when I’m 20 years old. I got to play a mean girl which I got to play when I was very small and this time, kind of a magnified version of that mean girl and it was a lot of fun to play, I must say,” she said.
Before Ashley’s highly-anticipated debut for a Disney movie, her fans can watch her as she will perform on stage in the holiday retelling of the classic Arabian Nights tale.
The play “Aladdin and His Winter Wish” will be held at the Pasadena Playhouse wherein she will play the princess. She will be doing all these stuff while recording her debut album – an album that’s pop and R&B. The play will start airing this week and ends on December 29.
Despite the busy schedules of Ashley Argota, she asked her friends to include her fundraising activities for super typhoon Haiyan victims.
Ben Vereen stars as “The Genie” in the Pasadena Playhouse production, ‘Aladdin and His Winter Wish’
*It’s about one o’clock in the afternoon in Pasadena, California, and EURweb writer, DeBorah B. Pryor has been invited to the actor’s rehearsal for the upcoming theatrical production of “Aladdin and His Winter Wish,” which opens on December 11 at The Pasadena Playhouse. They are using an old bank building as a rehearsal space. Seriously, there are “vaults” with those heavy iron doors being used by the reporters to interview the actors. My mind automatically goes to the fearful thought of being locked in if that vault door accidentally closes and I’m thrilled when pointed in the direction of a real room instead. It’s pretty incredible though, a great environment!
But I’m trying to be inconspicuous and out-of-the-way right now, as the actors warm up for rehearsal with stretching exercises, dancing, playing around with each other, and laughing. The crew is calling out different directions; telling the actors what time lunch will be today; what scenes they will rehearse. At this time, things are being held up to wait for Disney to show up with their film crew; which is important today because the actors are purposely not mic’d, but with the right equipment, good video and audio can be captured. I got great video with my iPad mini, but the audio sucks.
As I’m standing there looking around I decide to turn my attention to the right and notice “a brother” standing next to me wearing this really cool Michael Jackson jacket – you know, the one from the “Dangerous Tour” that’s real colorful, showing only MJ’s eyes? He’s also wearing his “Uppity Negro” cap to the back, baggy pants and has a nice, closely shaved, gray beard. I guess I wasn’t really looking at his face (maybe he wasn’t facing me directly, but then all of a sudden I realize its Ben Vereen.
OMG. Maybe my mind was expecting him to look differently, because I did not expect to see the legendary entertainer looking like this: Cool, young (he’s 66 but has the “feel” of 40) and spirited! I automatically embrace him and say, “I’m here for you.” He seems really genuine when he responds, “Really? Thank you.”
You notice immediately the difference between someone like Ben Vereen and his younger cast mates. Not in the way of energy, because he has plenty of that, but his sense of discipline is different. I recognize that while the others are casually having fun and playing around; he disappears (I don’t know where he went, but I suspect he was somewhere running lines or focusing on his monologue in a quieter space).
The production is an updated version of the classic Arabian Nights tale, in the style of a traditional British family Panto. Now don’t picture your grandma’s “pantomime” here; nor the brilliance of a Marcel Marceau (now there’s a name for you youngsters to Google!) Instead, picture Ben Vereen (who plays The Genie) cajoling with Aladdin (played by cute young actor Jordan Fisher of Disney’s Teen Beach movie), as he demonstrates the dreams that await Aladdin if he opens up his mind and believes in his greatest fantasies. And all while The Genie sings to the music of “Fantasy” by Earth, Wind & Fire. Panto is known for its interactive style and humor that appeals to people aged 2 – 102!
The scene is truly a sight to behold.
This is Ben’s first time doing a Christmas presentation in Los Angeles and he’s excited to be part of the cast.
“Lythgoe was kind enough to ask me to do Aladdin with them this year, and I looked at my calendar. I had the time off and I said I’d love to,” he says, after we find a quiet room to talk. “It gives me a chance to bring the spirit of Christmas to the young people. You know, we’re so inundated with materialism…with getting this and getting that and gotta have this and we’re forgetting the essence of what Christmas is all about.”
Lythgoe Family Productions produces fun, musical theatre the whole family can enjoy. Known for their creativity and involvement in television hits such as “American Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance,” the Lythgoe’s bring affordable theatre to families across America. Based on the Grimm fairy tales, each story has been modernized with topical scripts for parents and well known pop songs for kids.
Vereen sees this as his chance to give of himself to the young people. “Let’s laugh. Let’s have a good time. Let’s fantasize,” he adds – eyes wide and smile bright.
As we chat, I let him know how happy it makes me to be able to genuinely say how well he looks; especially because I know that he has been living with type II diabetes since he was diagnosed in December of 2007. He turns serious.
“It’s the getting through the getting through part that sometimes gets us hung up…My higher power…has allowed me to be here talking to this queen today,” he continues (I blush).
In an interview with The Huffington Post he described his feelings after hearing the news.
“It’s not our fault, it’s just that people are not informed enough to know what to do or how to talk to their doctors, or what questions to ask — I didn’t know myself,” Ben said. “I called Sanofi and told them that I wanted to help do something about this. We developed a movement and created a website called ‘Take Control of Your Diabetes.’”
“I’m trying to find a new way to enter the schools with this. To make the kids with type I diabetes the heroes…If we follow the regimen, not of taking the medicine [but] of eating the proper foods, exercising, I think we’d have a healthier country. So I’m pushing for that and getting people just to be aware that there by the grace, it can happen to anyone. If it could happen to me, because here I am…a singer, a dancer, an actor and it happened to me, so I want to get out there and say something about it,” the Tony-award winner states.
Vereen makes a point to reiterate that although the disease can be hereditary, it can stop with you. “If you’re on medication, take your medication. But to prevent it, eat right and exercise,” he stresses.
During )our talk I think about all the times we assume that just because we don’t actually see an entertainer this means they are not working; that they are probably somewhere just being unemployed.
If you think that about Ben Vereen, you’d be dead wrong.
“Well, I just did an NCIS [episode] that will be on December 18, and I did How I Met Your Mother and I’ve been on tour with my show, ‘Stepping Out Live’ around the country; as well as doing lectures,” offers Vereen (and I still get the impression he’s holding back.)
Vereen laughs as he thinks about actors always being asked the question, “So what are you doing next” and always feeling they have to exaggerate with this long list of projects (mimics the voice ‘Oh, I’m working on a million things’). This makes him think of something that happened when he ran into another legend, old friend and colleague, the late Sammy Davis, Jr.
“When I was with Sammy Davis, I’ll never forget he was doing Mod Squad…we had just finished doing ‘Golden Boy’ in Europe. I came back to the United States and I was in Los Angeles…so I went to see him and I was watching him shoot the Mod Squad. He came over and he said, ‘Ben, what are you doing?’ and I said, ‘Oh yeah, I’m doing a lot of things, and so and so’ (and Davis interjects) ‘You’re unemployed aren’t you?’ and I said (imitating a very meek voice) ‘Yes’.”
But the incredible Sammy Davis didn’t stop there. He told an unemployed Ben Vereen to come down to Las Vegas, where he had a show up and put him in the cast. Just like that. Ben says that is what he loved about Sammy.
Next Ben will be headed to Phoenix to sing the national anthem for his alma mater, University of Arizona at their game with The University of Phoenix. He says he’ll “hang out in Sedona” for a while before going to New York to work on his next project – which he is not at liberty to talk much about. But I did learn that it has some “very interesting people involved.”
Aladdin and His Winter Wish” is a singing, swinging and soaring adventure that features family-friendly magic, with a comedic twist, dancing (with “So You Think You Can Dance” alumni), a live pony and contemporary music from “Jai Ho” (Slumdog Millionaire) to “Treasure” (Bruno Mars) and many more.
The lively cast also stars Ashley Argota (Nickelodeon’s True Jackson VP), Richard Karn (“Home Improvement”), and Bruce Vilanch (Edna in Broadway /Los Angeles productions of Hairspray), and also includes Josh Adamson (US and UK Tours of “Peter Pan”) and Ben Giroux (Nickelodeon’s Bucket & Skinner’s Epic Adventures).
Returning from a previous Pasadena Playhouse production is director Bonnie Lythgoe (So You Think You Can Dance), choreographer Spencer Liff (Emmy nominee So You Think You Can Dance) and musical director Michael Orland (American Idol).
ALADDIN AND HIS WINTER WISH will play from December 11 – 29, 2013. Tickets are available by calling The Pasadena Playhouse at 626-356-7529, online 24 hours a day at www.PasadenaPlayhouse.org, or by visiting The Pasadena Playhouse Box Office at 39 South El Molino Avenue, Pasadena
DBen Vereen & DeBorah B. Pryor
DeBorah B. Pryor is a Los Angeles based writer and entrepreneur. She teaches public speaking at UCLA Extension and by appointment for private consultation. She is also an independent associate with LegalShield; where she helps people secure quality legal services and representation without worrying about costs. Visit her website at dpryorpresents.com
By Carey Purcell
11 Dec 2013
|Photo by Clarence Alford|
Aladdin and His Winter Wish continues through Dec. 29.
Directed by Bonnie Lythgoe, the cast of Aladdin and His Winter Wish, which features a book by Kris Lythgoe, also includes Jordan Fisher (“Teen Beach Movie”) as Aladdin, Ashley Argota (“True Jackson VP”) as The Princess and Richard Karn (“Home Improvement”) as The Sultan.
“An updated version of the classic Arabian Nights tale, in the style of a traditional British family Panto, Aladdin and His Winter Wish is a singing, swinging and soaring adventure that features family-friendly magic, with a comedic twist, dancing (with ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ alumni), a live pony and contemporary music from ‘Jai Ho’ (‘Slumdog Millionaire’) to ‘Treasure’ (Bruno Mars) and many more,” press notes state.
The production features choreography by Spencer Liff(Emmy nominee for “So You Think You Can Dance”), musical direction by Michael Orland (“American Idol”) and scenic and costume design by Lythgoe Family Productions.
Vilanch performed at the Pantages in Hollywood and on Broadway in Hairspray and has written for the Tony Awards. The Emmy Award winner has also contributed material to the Academy Awards and “Hollywood Squares.”
LFP producers include Kris Lythgoe, Bonnie Lythgoe, Becky Lythgoe and Jason Haigh Ellery.
Tickets and more information are available by calling (626) 356-7529 visiting PasadenaPlayhouse.org.
Tuesday, December 10th, 2013
Tips for Hanging Christmas Lights:
1. Make sure lights are rated for outdoor use.
2. Icicle lights work best for straight elements like gutters.
3. Use light clips or specialty staple guns only to attach lights.
4. To avoid shortages, don’t string more than three light strands together.
5. Wrap lights around cardboard when storing to keep from tangling.
See Richard in “Aladdin’s Winter Wish” from December 11-29. Go to pasadenaplayhouse.org for tickets.
Follow Richard on Twitter @richard_karn.
Also, thanks to our friends at Duracell, one lucky viewer can enter for a chance to win this beautiful HD TV. Visit the Hallmark Channel Facebook page and click the “Home and Family HD TV Giveaway Tab.” No purchase necessary, must be 18 years or older to win.
by Darlene Donloe | December 10, 2013
Jordan Fisher, Ben Giroux, Bruce Vilanch, and Ben Vereen in “Aladdin and His Winter Wish.” Photo by Clarence Alford.
Ben Vereen is perhaps best known for his conjuring of the opening number, “Magic to Do,” in the original 1972 production of the musical Pippin. So when the Pasadena Playhouse needed a magic-making genie for its panto production of Aladdin and His Winter Wish, which opens Wednesday, no one needed to say “abracadaba!” to envision Vereen in the role.
“I wanted a magical genie that, once Aladdin rubbed the lamp, burst back into life with energy and zest,” explains director and co-producer Bonnie Lythgoe. “Someone that lit up the stage with charm, wit and professionalism. I wanted someone that had ‘magic to do’ for Aladdin, and in my book there was only ever one man…Ben makes me realize even as a director you cannot give talent to someone, it comes from within.”
Vereen doesn’t sound surprised that someone might think of him in that way. The moment he sets foot on a stage, he says, “magic happens.”
He can’t explain it.
“It’s inexplicable,” he says. “It’s hard to put into words. It just is. The audience is there to receive and, as actors, we’re there to give. And a celebration happens. There is something about it. It’s magical. It’s a religion. It’s spiritual. I can’t explain it except to say, it’s special.”
A legendary Broadway performer who won Tony and Drama Desk awards for Pippin when he was only 26, Vereen has a resume that also includes such hits as Wicked, Fosse, I’m Not Rappaport, Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, Grind, Pippin, Jelly’s Last Jam and A Christmas Carol.
This week Vereen expands his repertoire into panto in the second year of the Panto at the Playhouse holiday series, co-produced by the Pasadena Playhouse and Lythgoe Family Productions. Last year the two co-produced a Snow White panto in Pasadena, which was preceded by a 2011 Cinderella panto at El Portal Theatre in NoHo.
Lythgoe Americanizes the mostly British holiday tradition of panto for California audiences. “Panto is a fairy story that you bring into modern times,” she explains. While actors may sing and dance in it, it’s not exactly a musical. Audience members “join in, they answer the comedian, they help Snow White and they laugh at the jokes.”
This year’s show is described as an updated version of the classic Arabian Nights tale. It’s a family-friendly, magical variety show of sorts – complete with singing, magic, comedy, dancing and contemporary music. Prior to each performance, guests and their families can enjoy games, carolers, activities, crafts and photo opportunities in the playhouse courtyard.
Besides Vereen as the genie, the cast also features Bruce Vilanch (Widow Twankey), Richard Karn (the Sultan), Jordan Fisher (Aladdin), Ashley Argota (the Princess), Ben Giroux (Wishy Washy) and Josh Adamson (Evil Abanazar).
While Vereen is familiar with the Aladdin story, he says this is the first time he’s been involved in a panto, and he’s pleased that the opportunity came along during a time when he was available.
“It’s Christmas,” says Vereen. “There is something about Christmas. I wasn’t doing anything. I had the time. I thought it would be fun. My grandkids can come see the show. That’s why I’m doing it. I love working with kids. This is a type of show where kids can be involved.”
Ben there done that
It’s one o’clock in the afternoon when Ben Vereen strolls into the Madilyn Clark Studios in Burbank, where he is rehearsing the show. He’s casually donned in a black NCIS cap, black jacket and pants, an orange t-shirt and orange kicks, topped off with that broad, signature smile.
Ben Vereen and cast in the 1972 Broadway production of “Pippin.”
At 67, his stride is unhurried, but steady. He doesn’t mind telling his age, he says, because he’s “earned it and worked for it.” Vereen concedes he’s not as energetic and quick on his feet as he used to be, but the fire in his belly and the passion in his heart for theater have not waned.
He says he’s excited to work alongside Bruce Vilanch and likes to watch him “do his thing.”
“He’s fun,” adds Vereen. “He’s fun to work with and he’s fun to watch. He’s also an amazing writer. It’s always wonderful watching a pro work.”
Vilanch can’t say enough about his co-star. “We have magic to do,” says Vilanch. “I mean, literally. He does magic in this show, but he is magic, so it comes naturally to him.”
This isn’t the first time the two have worked together. “I actually wrote special material for his concert act about 30 years ago…gulp,” says Vilanch. “And went on tour with him to some of the major mob casinos where we spent many entertaining evenings with some very colorful people who are either dead or behind bars or both.”
This time around, Vilanch joins Vereen on the stage. “Now I get to act with him,” says Vilanch. “It’s not news to say that he gushes talent, but it is staggering to be there when the fountains turn on. He is a master at every aspect of performing. The response he gets with just a smile or a crook of the finger is a lesson in stage presence. Plus, he’s frackin’ funny and gracious to boot. Whenever you work with one of the greats, it ups your game.”
Lythgoe echoes Vilanch’s praise.
“Ben lives the lines and gives his all,” she says. “But most of all he is articulate and he will never skip over anything. He is a perfectionist and I love that.”
“This is the first time I’ve worked with Bonnie,” responds Vereen. “I’ve been watching her conceive this. One thing I can say is, she’s very good…It’s easy working with her. She’s got that mindset. It doesn’t have to be just her way. The job of the actor is to bring it to them. It’s like a sculpture. You carve away the unnecessary.”
Vereen and Leslie Uggams have been friends for more years than Uggams cares to admit. They have often performed together. Both appeared in the hit miniseries, Roots. They were also part of the 42-city US tour of On Broadway, which hit LA in 1997.
Ben Vereen as Chicken George in the 1977 ABC mini-series “Roots.”
“Ben is a friend,” says Uggams via phone from her home in New York. “He’s a wonderful friend. We don’t see each other a lot, but when we do it’s like we saw each other yesterday.”
Uggams, who performed her one-woman Uptown Downtown at the Pasadena Playhouse in 2010, is certain her friend will do well.
“I love The Pasadena Playhouse,” says Uggams. “I know Ben will be good. I also know, because he’s in it, the show will be successful. Ben is extraordinary. He’s very talented. He holds the audience in the palm of his hand.”
Vereen has been plugging away at entertainment, he says, since, “let’s see, Moses went up the mountain.”
When he first got into the business, he admits he was lost and had no expectations.
“I didn’t expect anything when I got in this business and I got more than I expected,” says Vereen. “I didn’t know anything about this industry. I was a gangster from the streets. I ran quartet groups in churches. When I hit the business and it unfolded, it was a blessing to me…
“I didn’t even know what a Tony was when I was nominated. I was in Jesus Christ Superstar and the doorman came and gave me an envelope [he didn't win that one, but the following year he won for Pippin]. I wasn’t in the business for accolades. I was blown away. Wow, they like me. A tear came rolling down my face. I still have the envelope with the teardrop on it.”
Over the years, Vereen says the business has changed, so he has learned to change with the times.
“Times have changed,” says Vereen, who is working on producing his own show with the working title, Songs I Want To Sing All My Life. “In the beginning it was about blindness. It was about throwing yourself into the wind. It was about seeing the knowingness. It was about knowing things and applying them. I’ve learned how to hone and direct the energy. It takes live experiences to get there.”
Ben Vereen congratulates Gregory Hines for his 1992 Tony Award for “Jelly’s Last Jam.”
Producer Pamela Koslow, who has known Vereen for nearly 30 years, worked with him on Jelly’s Last Jam.
“In 1992, he took over for Keith David on Jelly’s Last Jam,” says Koslow, who recently moved to Los Angeles from New York and is working with a small start-up company called the Santa Monica Rep. “It was his first role after the car accident [he was critically injured in 1992 in a series of events on the Pacific Coast Highway]. He came to rehearsal and it didn’t take him long. He works very hard. He has a lot of life in him. Ben brought a different kind of energy to the role.”
Vereen went to the opening night of the updated Broadway version of Pippin, for which Patina Miller won a Tony in the same role Vereen played four decades earlier.
“I’m glad it’s up,” says Vereen. “It’s not my show, it’s Pippin, a circus. I wish I had those bells and whistles. We didn’t have that stuff. [Actor] Terrence Mann is amazing and all the players are wonderful.”
Although, he says, he doesn’t get as many job offers as he used to, Vereen is still choosy about taking on new projects.
“I have to really like the role,” he explains. “I want to be able to say something through the role. I don’t want to give them less than me.”
One role he chose that turned out to be life-changing was that of Chicken George in Roots.
“I had the privilege of going to Henning, Tenn. and stood at the grave of Chicken George,” explains Vereen. “I bent down to thank him, and a butterfly landed on my hand. We take the picture. I then go to my car and the butterfly was on my shoulder. The butterfly was on my hand and on my shoulder. I think it was him telling me I did good. He was telling me it was OK.”
Across the footlights
“Theater is the essence of everything I do,” says Vereen. “It all stems from theater. Theater is life. It’s that energy across the footlights. When you’re doing theater the script is written, but inside, the words are what you’re living. Inside are the moments. It’s about living in the now, being in the moment of the now and living that moment. In the theater the words become alive.”
At this moment Vereen looks like he’s deep in thought. He’s taking his time, looking at the ceiling, back to the floor and then at his hands. It’s as if he’s having mental flashbacks of his career.
There is a smile, but it briefly fades.
“I like being me,” he says. “I’m thankful that God has placed me on this path to experience the experiences I’ve had along the path. What I don’t like about me is time. I wish I had more time. I miss being able to take flight, being able to dance and hold myself in the air. I can dance, but not as well as I used to. I hate the body has to age, but it’s inevitable. It’s a product of this planet. But the spirit lives forever. I wish my body was as young as my spirit.”
Ben Vereen in “Aladdin and His Winter Wish”
Although he’s been plagued over the years with diabetes, the horrific car accident, the death of his 16-year old daughter in 1987 and reportedly filing for divorce last year, Vereen — a father of five and grandfather of seven — doesn’t allow it to consume him. He’s been hampered, but he’s still in the race.
“Diabetes and the accident have limited my movement,” offers the renowned hoofer. “We think we’re invincible. When you lose it, you can start getting it back. I realize I can’t do everything. You have to realize you’re a new creature. How do I learn the new process of working with this new body? I had to say to my God, ‘Whatever way your will wants. Thy will be done.’
“When the accident happened I was recovering and I was thinking I couldn’t sing or dance. I opened up and allowed him to use me. I had to be open and receptive. I had to surrender to it, not just lay there. I had to let him know that I’m ready to do that work and let him do the work through me. The mind works all the time. It’s always working. The brain will go straight to negative. It’s like a tape recorder. I had to put in a new tape.”
Vereen also enjoys the lecture circuit and has even become a requested speaker. His topics include overcoming adversity, arts in education, black history, motivational topics, recovery through physical and occupational therapy and the importance of continuing education — to name a few.
As a way of giving back to a profession that he says has given so much to him, Vereen takes pleasure in teaching master classes to enthusiastic drama students.
“I love being in front of people,” says Vereen, a self-described homebody who likes to sit and read books and scripts. “If I could no longer do what I do on stage, I would be of service in some form. I would continue to speak and teach. I get gratification from that. My purpose is to help bring out [the students'] convictions and identify with where they live inside their characters. I love the theater and I love teaching. There is a saying that goes – ‘If I can help somebody as I travel along. If I can help somebody with a word or song. If I can help somebody from doing wrong — my living shall not be in vain.’ I’ve done that.”
Vereen is one of those performers who has been called a “legend.”
“That’s good,” he acknowledges, “but employ me. I’m grateful for the accolades, but I’d like to be a working legend. What is the saying? ‘They will know you by your works.’ Let me continue to bear fruit. I’m an actor before I’m a legend…I have so much more to give. I was reading the paper once and actually saw an ad where someone was looking for a Ben Vereen type. Looking for a Ben Vereen type? Call me.”
**All Aladdin and His Winter Wish production photos by Clarence Alford.
Posted: Dec 10, 2013 9:48 AM PST Updated: Dec 10, 2013 9:49 AM PST
Ben Vereen is playing the genie in ‘Aladdin And His Winter Wish’, which is about to begin its run at the Pasadena Playhouse.
Fun facts about Ben Vereen (Source: Wikipedia)
1.) He was adopted by James Vereen, a paint-factory worker and his wife, Pauline, who worked as a maid. He discovered he was adopted when he applied for a passport to join Sammy Davis, Jr. on a tour of “Golden Boy” to London when he was 25.
2.) During his pre-teen years, he exhibited an innate talent for drama and dance and often performed in local variety shows. At the age of 14, Vereen enrolled at the High School of Performing Arts, where he studied under world-renowned choreographers Martha Graham, George Balanchine, and Jerome Robbins. Upon his graduation, he struggled to find suitable stage work and was often forced to take odd jobs to supplement his income. He was 18 years old when he made his New York stage bow off-off Broadway in The Prodigal Son at the Greenwich Mews Theater. By the following year, he was in Las Vegas, performing in Bob Fosse’s production of Sweet Charity, a show with which he toured in 1967–68. He returned to New York City to play Claude in Hair in the Broadway production, before joining the national touring company.
3.) The following year, he was cast opposite Davis in the film adaptation of Sweet Charity. After developing a rapport with Davis, Vereen was cast as his understudy in the upcoming production of Golden Boy, which toured England and ended the run at the Palladium Theatre in London’s West End.
By April Neale Dec 10, 2013, 5:58 GMT
The Pasadena Playhouse and Lythgoe Family Productions of Panto At The Playhouse’s Aladdin and his Winter Wish is confirmed:
Opening of The Pasadena Playhouse and Lythgoe Family production of Panto At The Playhouse’s ALADDIN AND HIS WINTER WISH — starring Ashley Argota as “The Princess” (Nickelodeon’s True Jackson VP), Jordan Fisher as “Aladdin” (Disney’s Teen Beach Movie), Richard Karn as “The Sultan” (“Home Improvement”), Bruce Vilanch as “Widow Twankey” (Edna in Broadway and Los Angeles Hairspray), and Broadway’s Ben Vereen (Broadway’s Pippin and Jesus Christ Superstar) as “The Genie.”
On Wednesday, December 11th, Showtime: 7:00 PM and Curtain Call: 9:00 PM at The Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Avenue, Pasadena CA Production is directed by Bonnie Lythgoe, choreographed by Spencer Liff (Emmy nominee “So You Think You Can Dance”) with Michael Orland (“American Idol”) serving as Musical Director.
Neil Patrick Harris – Sarah Michelle Gellar – Jesse Tyler Ferguson
Wayne Brady – Nigel Lythgoe – Cobie Smulders
Bruce Vilanch – Ashley Argota – Ben Vereen
Marissa Jaret Winokur- Jordan Fisher – Amy Ackers
Bonnie Lythgoe – Charlene Tilton – Jason George
An updated version of the classic Arabian Nights tale, in the style of a traditional British family Panto, Aladdin and his Winter Wish is a singing, swinging and soaring adventure that features family-friendly magic, with a comedic twist, dancing (with “So You Think You Can Dance” alumni), a live pony and contemporary music from “Jai Ho” (Slumdog Millionaire) to “Treasure” (Bruno Mars) and many more. A Panto is known for its interactive style and humor that appeals to everyone from ages 2 – 102!
Lythgoe Family Productions produces fun, musical theatre the whole family can enjoy.
Known for their creativity and involvement in television hits “American Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance,” the Lythgoes are dedicated to bringing affordable theatre to families across America.
Based on the Grimm fairytales, each story has been modernized with topical scripts for parents and well known pop songs for kids.
Aladdin and his Winter Wish will play from December 11 – 29, 2013.
Tickets are available by calling The Pasadena Playhouse at 626-356-7529, online 24 hours a day at www.PasadenaPlayhouse.org, or by visiting The Pasadena Playhouse Box Office at 39 South El Molino Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101.