Motown: The Musical Diva Valisia LeKae Opens Up About Cancer Battle and Love from the Broadway Community

By Karu F. Daniels
25 Dec 2013

Valisia LeKae

With its near 60 songs, rigorous dance routines and hundreds of costume changes, Motown The Musical is an arduous undertaking for any of its performers, more so its leading stars. Recovering from surgery and with chemotherapy on the immediate schedule (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's fellow Motown The Musical cast members have rallied around her with an outpouring of love and support. On Facebook, ensemble member Ephraim Sykes posted a photo of LeKae in a makeup chair with the words: "Cheers To A Warrior. #heroine," while her leading man Brandon Victor Dixon, who plays Gordy, wrote that he was "so uplifted by the love being shown to my darling."

When she found out more details about her diagnosis and treatment plans, LeKae instructed her agent to inform the show's producers first. Soon after, she called a pre-show meeting at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre with her "Motown Family," which consisted of members from the cast and creative teams.

"I explained to them what I was going through and what I was diagnosed with, and I never have seen a group of people rally the way I've seen them rally. And, immediately, Ryan Shaw led us into prayer. We all got together in that house and prayed together. They lifted me up so heavily and so mightily, and when it was over, I got to hug each and every one of them. They stayed in that auditorium and allowed me to hold each and every one of them down to the last person.

"It's pretty amazing you get to experience so much love and so many people who are willing to say, 'We are here for you,'" she continued. "And my producers have been amazing in making sure I have everything that I need and checking in on me. We built that family over two years ago when Brandon and I started doing that reading in 2011, and we have a close relationship, so they have been some of my biggest supporters and I thank God that they're in my life."

She added, "I'm hoping that my story will give someone the bravery to just go and say, 'I need to go in and check in on myself' because early detection is the key to everything. The sooner you get in there and know about what's going on with your body, the more you can do.

"My career doesn't end because I've been diagnosed with cancer. If anything, it continues to soar."