BWW Interview - Ben Vereen Talks 'ROCKY HORROR', Return to Broadway & More!
Stage legend Ben Vereen will portray Dr. Everett Scott in the two-hour television broadcast of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, airing Thursday, October 20th at 8 pm/et on FOX. The Tony winner takes over the iconic role from Jonathan Adams, who played the German scientist in the 1975 original film.
Today, Vereen talks exclusively with BroadwayWorld about this highly anticipated television event and tells us he's "having a ball" doing it!
Were you a ROCKY HORROR fan prior to your casting, and if so, what is your first memory of the film?
You're going to find this hard to believe, but I am one of the few people on the planet Earth that has not seen THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW. I had plans to go see it. I had promised myself I'd go see it. All my friends had gone to see it. But I was working and I never got around to doing it. Then [director] Kenny Ortega called me one day and he said, 'I want you to be my Doctor Scott' and I said, 'what is Doctor Scott?' and he answered, 'you'll find out!'
Can you talk about your character and his role in the story?
Well, Dr. Scott is a German scientist who has been watching the castle for a long time because he suspects something strange is going on over there, and he also investigates UFO's and aliens for the government. So he has an idea that something is going on, and he finds an excuse to get inside the castle itself to find out what that is.
There are so many ROCKY HORROR fans worldwide. Did that put extra pressure on the cast to get things right?
You know, I honestly had no idea. I knew that so many people had seen it worldwide, but I had no
idea how deep it went. But our job was not to remake the film, but to pay honor to the original. Because you should not touch the original. And here's the wonderful thing. Under the direction of Kenny Ortega, and with the help of producers Lou Adler and Gail Berman, [original cast member] Tim Curry was cast in the show, and that was a blessing. To work with him and to hear his story and to have him watch us rehearse was a blessing. And then of course, he was on the stage and we were able to watch his performance. So it is a wonderful tribute to the film.
In recent years we've seen several television adaptations of beloved musicals. What are your thoughts on this recent phenomenon?
I think we are entering into a phase where these productions are translating very well to the small screen, and I think it's a wonderful thing that the small screen is opening up the possibilities of all art forms to be translated to it. It becomes another pathway to the arts, and allows art to express itself and to reach people. And what that does is stimulate people who would otherwise not have the opportunity to come to New York to see a Broadway show. It stimulates their curiousity so that the next time they see a production coming through their town, they'll want to go see it, to see live theater. So it's a wonderful thing for the arts.
What do you think it is about the story of ROCKY HORROR that allows it to stand the test of time?
That's a very good question. I think it's because the story shows the possibilities of turning the abstract into reality. Don't dream it, do it - that's my favorite line from the whole production, don't dream it - do it. What strong words. We dream, we say things like, 'oh I had a wonderful dream', but why don't you become that what you are dreaming about? And when you become that what you are dreaming about, we have a better world. Dream the good, dream the good, please dream the good. Especially now.
Can you talk about working with this talented cast and creative team?
I was really blessed. First of all, the cast is kicking! Each one of the cast members just floored me. But then let's go beyond that, let's talk about the crew. Sitting there on stage and watching the crew, the men and women of the crew, setting up shots that will only be seen for like a minute on the TV, but setting it up for hours for that one moment. This crew has got to be given credit. They are the ones that make us look good. And that's what I'll take away from this production and from all my productions. It's the crew. They don't get enough credit. The things that they do for only a moment in time, so that you and I can go 'wow!' And that all comes from the mind of the great creator called the director, Kenny Ortega, who has been inspired by something within him. But as far as the cast, we had a ball, we had a love affair. And for that I give thanks to Lou Adler and Gail Berman for keeping this dream alive.
I would be remiss if I didn't ask if you have any plans to return to Broadway in the near future.
Of course. Well first, I'm going to be at 54 Below Thanksgiving week. But we are also working on
a new production to come back to Broadway. So yes, you know theater's my first love. It will always be my first love!
Tony and Drama Desk Award winner Ben Vereen is known for his renowned performance in Bob Fosse's PIPPIN. Mr. Vereen's Broadway credits include Wicked, I'm Not Rappaport, Chicago, Hair, Fosse, Jelly's Last Jam, Jesus Christ Superstar, and A Christmas Carol. In 2010, Vereen completed a successful run in the world premiere of Fetch Clay, Make Man, directed by Des McAnuff (Jersey Boys) at theMcCarter Theatre. Film: Idlewild, All That Jazz, Sweet Charity, Funny Lady (Golden Globe nomination), Why Do Fools Fall in Love, Once Upon a Forest. Television credits include the legendary television miniseries Roots, HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER (recurring), Grey's Anatomy (Prism Award), Tyler Perry's House of Payne, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, Hallmark's An Accidental Friendship (NAACP nomination), Tenspeed and Brown Shoe, Louis Armstrong - Chicago Style, Ellis Island (Golden Globe Nomination), Anne Rice's Feast of All Saints, Zoobilee Zoo, and Star Trek: The Next Generation. He recently co-starred in Paramount Studios' Top Five with Chris Rock.
THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW debuts on FOX on October 20th. The cast includes Laverne Cox (Dr. Frank-N-Furter, "Orange is the New Black"), Victoria Justice (Janet, "Victorious"), Adam Lambert (Eddie, "American Idol) Ryan McCartan (Brad, "Liv & Maddie," "Heathers the Musical"), Reeve Carney (Riff Raff, "Penny Dreadful," "Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark"), Tony Award winner Annaleigh Ashford (Columbia, Kinky Boots, You Can't Take It with You) and Staz Nair (Rocky, "Game of Thrones").
THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW follows sweethearts Janet (Justice) and Brad (McCartan), who stumble upon Dr. Frank-N-Furter's (Cox) bizarre abode. Frank-N-Furter, a sexually ambiguous, flirtatious alien mad-scientist - with the help of his faithful servants, Riff Raff (Carney) and Magenta - is holding an annual, Transylvanian Science convention to showcase the birth of "Rocky Horror" (Nair) - a fit, attractive man created solely to fulfill Frank's desires.
THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW is from FOX 21 Television Studios and The Jackal Group. Lou Adler (Grammy Award winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee) and Gail Berman (TV, film and Broadway producer), along with Emmy Award winner Kenny Ortega ("High School Musical" franchise, "This Is It," "Descendants," "Hocus Pocus," "Newsies"), will serve as executive producers. Ortega will also direct and choreograph.
THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW is a reimagining of the cult classic, which is celebrating 40 years of theatrical distribution - longer than any other film in history. One of the most popular films of all time, it still plays in movie theaters around the world.
Photo credit: Steve Wilkie/FOX
Photo Credit: Jennifer Broski
Photo Credit: Walter McBride / WM Photos