Crooner Andy Williams told the audience at his Christmas show at Moon River Theatre he has bladder cancer, as first reported Saturday on bransontrilakesnews.com.
An enthusiastic standing ovation greeted the man known as Mr. Christmas when he appeared immediately following the “Oh What a Night!” quartet’s opening number.
“I do have cancer of the bladder,” the 83-year-old Williams said. “But that is no longer a death sentence. People with cancer are getting through this thing. They’re kicking it, and they’re winning more and more every year. And I’m going to be one of them.”
The nearly full house answered this declaration with another round of cheers and applause.
Saturday marked Williams’ first on-stage appearance in weeks. He had not performed with actress and singer Ann-Margret in October as he had planned, and his theater announced earlier this week that he would likely be unable to appear during the holiday season because of an undisclosed medical condition.
The National Enquirer, a weekly supermarket tabloid, was the first to report that Williams had been diagnosed with bladder cancer, citing an anonymous source. Williams made reference to the publication while speaking Saturday.
He went on to thank the audience members for their support during his “time of need.”
“I really have missed this an awful lot,” Williams said.
He promised the crowd that he would recover to take the stage again in 2012, which marks his 75th year in the entertainment industry. He had previously announced his plans to perform next year with a number of different guest stars to celebrate the milestone.
“I’ll be coming back here next year, in September and October,” he said. “I’m going to do the shows I’ve planned to do.”
Although the Enquirer and other media have reported Williams is to receive chemotherapy in Houston, Texas, he actually doesn’t know yet where his treatments will take place, the theater’s marketing director said.
Williams performed one song Saturday, singing “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” with the quartet as his accompaniment. He said he has missed singing, and the song was one he had used to do with his brothers when they performed together in a quartet of their own.
Moon River staff and some of the cast of the Christmas show briefly joined the audience to hear Williams’ announcement. Among them was Bill Lennon, who performs in the show with his wife, Gail, and two of his brothers.
Lennon said he hadn’t known of Williams’ intentions until he came to the theater that night.
“He is as classy as they come,” Lennon said of Williams. “That was amazing. It’s something I’ll always remember.”
Branson resident Ami Bernhardi was also impressed. She attended the show Saturday with her four young children.
“I had heard he was going to appear, but I didn’t really know what to expect,” Bernhardi said. “I think everyone would have understood if he didn’t come out. I thought he was extremely dedicated to his fans to do what he did. That was above and beyond.”
Bernhardi said she felt swept up in the moment Saturday night, and that she saw “a great outpouring of love and admiration” from the audience for Williams.
She said she has been to Williams’ show twice a year since moving to the area in 1999.
“My children just adore him,” she said of the performer. “And next year, we hope to continue our tradition of going to see him. I think he’ll be back. He sounded pretty positive about it.”
Williams recorded a string of hit songs in the 1950s and ’60s and hosted his own television variety show for nearly a decade.
Williams has recorded 18 gold and three platinum albums in his long career. He opened the Moon River Theatre in Branson in May of 1992.