10 October 1946 (age 76)
Ben Vereen (born October 10, 1946 in Laurinburg, North Carolina) is an American actor, dancer, and singer who has appeared in numerous Broadway theatre shows. 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 starred in the Broadway musical Wicked as the Wizard of Oz, replacing former Wizard George Hearn on May 31, 2005. He was replaced by tour Wizard David Garrison on April 4, 2006.
His work in theatre has also secured him numerous appearances on various television programs and films. Notable film roles include song-and-dance men in Funny Lady and All That Jazz. He starred in the television series Tenspeed and Brown Shoe but is probably best known for his role as "Chicken" George Moore in Roots. Other TV appearances include:
* Star Trek: The Next Generation
* The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
* The Jamie Foxx Show
* The Love Boat
* The Muppet Show
* The Nanny
* Touched by an Angel
* Zoobilee Zoo
Vereen has also performed in one-man shows and actively lectures on black history and inspirational topics.
In 1992, he was accidentally struck while walking on the Pacific Coast Highway by a car driven by producer/composer David Foster.
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, North Carolina. In April of 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 of 2006, he met his mother's sister, Gloria Walker, of New Haven, Connecticut.
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