Just days away from completing his debut Broadway run in “Chicago,” Usher is pulling out of the show under doctor’s orders. The singer has been diagnosed with an “extreme” case of strep throat, his manager/mother announced Thursday (October 12).
Usher had relocated to New York’s Theater District for the duration of his stint as Billy Flynn in “Chicago,” which started August 22 (see “Usher Goes To Broadway, Finds Kindred Spirit In Richard Gere” and “Usher’s Broadway Debut Comes Off Without A Hitch — Except For That Cell Phone … “ ). He was originally scheduled to perform through October 1 but extended his run through Saturday (his 28th birthday). Though Usher was in New York for an extended stretch, he promised not to venture out too much in the interest of preserving his voice and stamina for the performances.
“If you think that you will be able to indulge in the nightlife, the wild life of New York City and do Broadway, it’s impossible,” Usher said at the beginning of his run. “If you do catch me out, it’ll be a miracle, because I take this that serious. It takes a lot to give 120 percent of yourself as an actor, as a vocalist, as a performer, and do it again and again, for eight shows a week. Broadway is no joke” (see ” ’Broadway Is No Joke': An Inside Look At Usher’s ’Chicago’ Rehearsals” ).
However, Usher fell ill on Friday, the beginning of his final week, so his understudy, Bernard Dotson, began filling in for him. As his condition progressively worsened, Usher continued to miss shows throughout the week, and fans began demanding refunds. But Usher’s doctor diagnosed and is treating him for an “extreme” case of strep throat, according to his manager (and mother), Jonnetta Patton, and has instructed him not to perform.
“He is really saddened that he cannot close out his last week in ’Chicago’ with a bang,” Patton said. “He expresses his sincere apologies to all of his fans who purchased tickets to see him this final week.”
“The entire ’Chicago’ company is sending their thoughts and best wishes to Usher for a quick and speedy recovery,” “Chicago” producer Barry Weissler said. “Usher made a spectacular Broadway debut, bringing a great dedication, work ethic, and his amazing talent to the show. We all hope that he might return at some point for the many fans that were unable to see his wonderful performance as Billy Flynn. Usher has found a new home on Broadway and is welcome back anytime.”
In all, Usher will have missed 11 performances. Christopher McDonald will, as previously scheduled, take over the role beginning Sunday, and Huey Lewis will reprise his stint in the role from November 20 through January 14. Ashlee Simpson, of course, joined the London cast of the show late last month (see “Ashlee Collapses Onstage At ’Chicago’ Debut — But This Time, It’s Intentional” ).