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Belinda a global hit, says director

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TO NDR Whitney2

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YOUNG WHITNEY: SAs Belinda Davids seen here in character as music superstar Whitney Houston.

SOUTH Africa’s Belinda Davids has been wowing audiences across the world with Showtime Management’s hit new offering, The Greatest Love of All – The Whitney Houston Show.

Davids can be seen in the show in Durban from this week.

In the wake of Houston’s tragic death in 2012, there’s been a revival of appreciation for the pop icon’s music. The Greatest Love of All catalogues Houston’s most loved songs, spanning her 29-year career.

A press release says the show features hits like How Will I Know, I Wanna Dance With Somebody, Where Do Broken Hearts Go, Didn’t We Almost Have It All, I’m Every Woman, Exhale (Shoop Shoop), Step by Step and of course, I Will Always Love You.

Tonight caught up with director Jon van Grinsven jr to find out more about what it was about Port Elizabeth-born Davids that stood out from the crowd after 15 000 auditions in 12 countries.

“I was nearly at the point of giving up because I knew exactly what I wanted and I knew what the public wanted to hear and see. I found a lot of great singers, a lot of fantastic singers, but they didn’t have soul.

“Most singers don’t have soul. Whitney had soul, Whitney oozed soul and emotion when she sang. Now a lot of great singers can sing, but they have to be able to sing that you believe what they sing,” he began to explain.

“Belinda came along and the first line she sang, a cappella, was I Will Always Love You… and she just nailed it. The hairs on my arms stood up and everyone in the room stopped… She gave the keyboard player a queue, he just came in and we thought, this is something special.

“That whole day all I could hear was her voice in my head and I thought I’ve got to bring this girl back and see what it takes to get her to be Whitney.

“I got her to come back and sing five songs for me and I knew then that I’d found what I’d been searching for for 12 months,” said Van Grinsven.

In once instance in Hong Kong, the audience wanted Davids to sing I Will Always Love You a cappella to prove she was not lip-synching, and she did it and left them with dropped jaws.

“She is that good… Without giving away too many secrets about the show, we do a couple of songs, one song in particular, where we have Whitney and her on the stage together. And you can see they are identical.

“She does it in the original key, she can hit the biggest notes, she can go to the lowest notes, she can just nail it. In the audience you have people crying, we have people screaming…

“We’ve done Australia, New Zealand and other countries.

“I’ve never seen the reaction I got like when we did it in Johannesburg.

“The way they come to her, the screaming. And that’s what she does, she’s a great singer. And that’s what Whitney did in her prime. In her later years, we all remember those. But in the show I wanted to have an artist who looked like her in her prime, who sang like her in her prime, so the audience remembers Whitney at her best. I needed to have Whitney when she was at her best, and that’s what I found,” he said.

Davids, who’s been per- forming professionally since the age of 14, has never had vocal training. With a four octave vocal range, she possesses the ability to sing any genre. Her career so far saw her relocated to Los Angeles where she worked as a solo recording artist and as a support act and backing vocalist for The Temptations, Keri Hilson, Keyshia Cole, Monica, Kelly Price and Johnny Gill.

Now putting together a playlist for a show of this magnitude can’t be easy and as Van Grinsven explains, when the artist has so many great songs, it’s not what songs to put in, but what to leave out.

“We went through and did our research in different markets around the world where the show plays; we double checked that we got the right songs in the mix… When we played Johannesburg in May we knew we had it right when we had eight standing ovations in one night.

“And most nights we were getting around that same amount of standing ovations.”

 

• The Greatest Love of All – The Whitney Houston Show opens in Durban (Sibaya Casino – iZulu Theatre) from December 6 to January 7 and Cape Town (GrandWest) from January 12 with a short stop in Port Elizabeth in between. Tickets are now on sale through Computicket.

 

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The Tonight has 10 double tickets for The Greatest Love of All show in Durban to give away.
To enter the competition, sms “Whitney DN” and your name to 33963 before 9am tomorrow. Smses are charged at R1.50 and winners will be contacted telephonically.
Good luck!

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