I recently attended “Steppin’ Out With Ben Vereen, hosted by the LSU Union Theater, which followed the first home football game.

I was astounded by the audience appreciation and marveled at Vereen’s performance. I never realized how linked my journey as a performer has been with his until he transported us through a montage of his work.

He dared to dance. “The King and I” was one of his first stage shows, and he is still known for his role in “Pippin.”

Oddly, I was awarded “Best Actor in a Musical” in Baton Rouge Little Theater’s “The King and I,” and I still get compliments for my role in Swine Palace’s “Pippin,” not to mention our connection to dancing Bob Fosse’s classics.

Seeing this legend in person brought tears to my face. He’s a great storyteller. As he shared himself with us, I couldn’t help but feel connected. He was only a few feet away, but beyond reach, so I sat back and took in all he offered.

His smile was brighter than the stage lights and the twinkle in his eye more magical than any special effects. I am getting older, as is everyone, but this performance inspired me to keep looking forward.

He shared how Sammy Davis Jr. mentored him, and there I was sitting with a young man I was hoping to inspire in the same way. I am no Ben Vereen, but I do hope to walk in his light.

Thank you, LSU Union Theater, for bringing such quality performances to our town.

Don’t miss this show if you get the chance to see it, and I encourage our community to continue to support the arts. It’s a gift we can’t afford to lose. Times are hard, but don’t let the fear of spending a few dollars cost you an experience of a lifetime. Live theater when done well is priceless.

Treat yourself and the next generation. Please! You won’t regret it.

Leonard Augustus Jr.

local performer

Baton Rouge