Entertainer Ben Vereen to bring a message of healthier living to Seattle

Dancer, actor and singer Ben Vereen will take the stage to help people figure out ways to cope with a feared but common disease: Type 2 diabetes.

Ben Vereen, the legendary singer, actor and dancer, has a gig coming up in Seattle that’s less about entertaining and more about inspiring people. Vereen will be the keynote speaker at the Northwest Kidney Centers’ 15th annual Breakfast of Hope next week.

“I want to get people talking about it,” Vereen said in a phone interview the other day. That’s because you can’t avoid a problem if you don’t know about it.

Vereen danced onto the stage in a 1965 production of “The Prodigal Son,” and his career kept expanding from there. He won a Tony award for his performance in “Pippin” on Broadway, then played Chicken George in the 1977 miniseries “Roots.” He’s performed in scores of television shows, movies and stage productions and filled the time in between with solo shows and speaking engagements.

He’s 70 now and has just acted in episodes of two TV series while developing a new Broadway musical called “Reflections,” which he said is about how we affect each other’s lives.

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But if you think he’s had nothing but good fortune, you’re wrong. He’s fought through so many challenges that it’s a wonder he still has the broad smile he’s known for.

As a young man, discovering he’d been adopted rocked him emotionally. Years later, in 1987, something much more painful derailed him for a time — his 16-year-old daughter, Naja, was killed in a car collision.

Then in 1992 he was hit by a truck and nearly died. Doctors said he wouldn’t sing again, and probably wouldn’t walk again, but he struggled back, and in less than a year was back on stage.

Because he’s overcome so many problems, audiences really listen when he talks about how he’s dealt with health issues, something he’s been…

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