Tony Award-nominated performer Valisia LeKae has departed “Motown: The Musical” on Broadway after learning she has ovarian cancer.
LeKae was six months into her run in one of the Great White Way’s biggest box-office hits upon learning of her diagnosis.
The Memphis-bred entertainer, who played Diana Ross in the Berry Gordy-produced musical, originally revealed her condition on Facebook.
“As a 34 year old, African American woman, I feel that it is important that I share my story in order to educate and encourage others about this disease and the fight against it. God has given me another role to play and like all my previous roles, I plan to go all in, only this time I plan to Win,” she wrote.
LeKae recently told Karu Daniels for Playbill.com that the day before her big reveal on Facebook, she had surgery (unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy) for clear cell carcinoma of the ovary performed by the highly-sought Dr. David Fishman at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital.
The theater star, who also appeared in “The Book of Mormon” and “Ragtime,” said she wants her story to encourage others.
“I don’t think it’s nothing that anybody else in my position wouldn’t have done,” she told Playbill.com about going public with her illness. “It’s just another way for me to use my voice and be an advocate for this disease that I have now. I wanted to talk about it. I just wanted people to be aware.”
As the star of “Motown: The Musical,” a show that includes nearly 60 songs, rigorous dance routines and hundreds of costume changes, there was no way that LeKae could stay in the production while battling cancer.
Now recovering from surgery and her chemotherapy starting and continuing through April, multitasking wasn’t an option for LeKae.
“I need to dedicate 100 percent of my time to getting better,” she said. “It requires your full attention… The backstage show is just as busy as what’s happening onstage. There’s constant movement for me. Once I start, it just doesn’t stop. So it’s really important that I just said, ‘I’m going to have to just take a step back from my career as a singer, actress, dancer and performer and use my voice in a different way — as an advocate for this disease that I’ve now been diagnosed with.'”
LeKae added that her cast rallied behind her, prayed with her and have been so supportive since learning of her diagnosis as well.
“My career doesn’t end because I’ve been diagnosed with cancer. If anything, it continues to soar,” she concluded.