LATEST: R+B star Usher's severe bout of strep throat has forced the star to withdraw from the hit musical Chicago which will cost producers nearly half a million dollars in refunds. The star, real name Usher Raymond, was scheduled to give his farewell performance as lawyer BILLY FLYNN on Saturday night (14OCT06) in New York City. He became ill last Friday (06OCT06) and was forced to cancel a week's worth of shows or risk doing permanent damage to his vocal cords. Producer BARRY WEISSLER tells the New York Post, "We never expected this. He was very sick last week, and it's just gotten worse. Unfortunately he won't be coming back." Weissler says the impact on ticket sales has been "horrible" adding, "big refunds." Since Usher's illness the refund line outside the Ambassador Theatre has stretched halfway down the block with hundreds of disappointed fans demanding their money back. Refunds are expected to cost producers an estimated $400,000 (GBP222,000). Despite the last minute losses, Usher's seven-week stint will still be extremely profitable. He played to packed houses and theatre insiders estimate profits to be around $1.7 million (GBP944,000) for the short, but lucrative run. Weissler adds, "We just hope Usher gets healthy soon. He was one of the best Billy Flynns we've ever had. He's welcome back any time."