Robin Williams Had Early Stage Parkinson's Disease, Wife Says

Broadway cast of 'Aladdin' pays tribute to actor with rousing, crowd-assisted rendition of "Friend Like Me"

Robin Williams
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Robin Williams
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Robin Williams was in the early stages of Parkinson's disease at the time of his death earlier this week, the actor's wife, Susan Schneider, said in a statement, Deadline reports.

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"Robin’s sobriety was intact and he was brave as he struggled with his own battles of depression, anxiety as well as early stages of Parkinson’s Disease, which he was not yet ready to share publicly," she wrote.

Thanking everyone for their expressions of kindness in the wake of his passing, Schneider wrote that Williams "wanted us to laugh and to feel less afraid," adding, "His greatest legacy, besides his three children, is the joy and happiness he offered to others, particularly to those fighting personal battles." Schneider closed her note by encouraging those struggling with depression or mental health issues to "seek the care and support they need to treat whatever battles they are facing so they may feel less afraid."

Among the many tributes to Williams, the Broadway cast of Aladdin enlisted the help of their audience attending a show the day after his passing to assist in a rousing rendition of Genie's big number, "Friend Like Me." Williams famously voiced Genie in the 1992 Disney film, and in a video posted by the Associated press, actor James Iglehart — who won a Tony for his Broadway portrayal of Aladdin's lamp-dwelling friend — bounds across the stage as he sings, the cast clapping behind him. By the time they reach the chorus, the whole crowd has joined in, and it's possible not to feel a more than a few chills.

Williams' turn as Genie in the original animated flick was just another of the actor's tour-de-force performances: Upon the characters introduction, Williams proceeded to rattle off a succession of impressions that ranged from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Ed Sullivan. A photo of Genie and Aladdin hugging, initially posted to Twitter by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences with the caption "Genie, you're free," has been one of the most widely circulated — and heavily scrutinized — tributes to the actor.

Williams died Monday at the age of 63. According to the Marin County Sheriff's Department the actor hanged himself in the bedroom of his Tiburon, California home. Authorities did not say if Williams had left a suicide note, though they said he had been seeking treatment for depression; a toxicology test was performed as well, though the results won't come in for weeks.

Fans, friends, family and fellow performers offered up a slew of tributes in the wake of Williams' death: Actors like Chevy Chase, Meryl Streep and Danny DeVito offered their remembrances, while the Roots' Questlove recalled a surprise encounter with the actor in an elevator — Williams happened to know their entire history and discography. Williams will also be honored with a segment at this year's Emmy Awards, which take place on August 25th.