September 25, 2006 12:00 PM

Finding Usher’s dressing room at the Ambassador Theater isn’t difficult: Just climb up the narrow flights of stairs until the scent of birch, violets and incense hits you—hard. “Man, it’s so potent because it’s one small area, and I have three candles burning at one time,” says the singer, 27, who’s used to filling backstage spaces on tour with a pool table and a basketball hoop. Here, there are only lounge chairs and a dressing table decorated with personal items like a snapshot of his brother James with the cast. Still, he makes do. Instead of the full bar he sets up on the road, he keeps a cocktail shaker on hand “for one reason—the last show,” he says. “I plan on having a martini, shaken not stirred, that night.” For now, the toast of Broadway is Usher himself, doubling box office sales in his stage debut as the charmingly devious lawyer Billy Flynn in Chicago (until Oct. 1). “I knew Broadway was something I would want to do. And this character is a lot of fun,” says Usher. It’s fun offstage too. One night, he found the cast lurking by his door and one costar loudly complaining about a lost wallet. “I go in my room and everybody’s purses, wallets, make-up, wardrobe—it’s all stuffed in my room!” says Usher, who’s now called “Sticky Fingers” by his prankster castmates. “The games have begun,” he says with an evil grin.” I’ve done 10 tours, so I’m well-equipped with things that’ll shock you. They better look out!”

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