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Houston: we have a winner

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TO NDR Belinda Davids1

Reece Baxter

FILLING BIG SHOES: Belinda Davids during a tribute to Nelson Mandela, which was added to the show to honour him.

The Greatest Love of All: The Whitney Houston Show
PRODUCER/DIRECTOR: Johnny Van Grinsven
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR: Kenny Whizz
MUSICAL DIRECTOR: Richard Baker
CAST: Belinda Davids
BAND: Richard Baker (Australia, musical director, guitar, vocals); Nicholas McCreadie (South Africa, drums); Steve Dennett (South Africa, bass); Giles Tingey (Canada, keyboard, vocals); Dale Scheepers (South Africa, keyboard, vocals, sax); Giselle Bouwer (South Africa, vocals); Lindiwe Bungane (South Africa, vocals)
VENUE: iZulu Theatre (Sibaya Casino)
UNTIL: January 5
RATING: ****

 

IT takes a while to get into Showtime Management’s The Greatest Love of All – The Whitney Houston Show which is touring fresh off its overseas run.

It’s not that the show is slow or a bore, but rather it’s the shock of hearing South Africa’s Belinda Davids perform this pop icon’s music to a T, hitting every note perfectly.

If you had walked into the iZulu Theatre blindfolded and listened to the opening song, you would be forgiven for thinking you were listening to Houston herself, Davids is that good.

 

Celebrating Houston’s 29-year career, this show catalogues some of her most popular hits and How Will I Know? Where do Broken Hearts Go?, I’m Every Woman, Exhale, I Wanna Dance with Somebody and I Will Always Love You are among the many songs included.

While in reality Houston’s later years were littered with personal problems and negative publicity, from the get-go – in preview interviews with Showtime Management and early on in the show itself – it’s made clear that the objective of show is to remember Houston in her prime. From the song list to Davids’ performance, this is achieved.

This show really does present a trip down memory lane in so far as the best of Houston is concerned. Since her death last year there has been a revival of appreciation for her talent and music, and this show is a great contribution to this.

While taking notes during the show I began compiling a highlights list, but by interval I realised I’d listed the entire first half.

But it’s not just Davids’ vocal ability that has you hooked – after all, she has a four-octave range – it’s her performance, too. She feels every song, resulting in a spirited performance. She is relaxed on stage and shared a great rapport with her team and the audience.

Complementing her performance was a segment in which Davids performs I Have Nothing with a video of Houston performing the same song rolling off a screen behind her (sound off, of course, and just Davids’s voice resonating throughout the theatre). It was surreal.

Given that I couldn’t decide which set I liked best, there was one stand-out moment for me – a fitting tribute to Houston and Nelson Mandela when Davids sang I Will Always Love You.

The performance was tastefully done with Davids singing while images of Madiba with Houston, and later some just of Madiba, were projected on to the screen. This was followed by Davids performing a rendition of Glory Glory Hallelujah in honour of Madiba.

While many of Davids’ performances drew ovations, it was this tribute that brought the house down and drew an overwhelming sense of appreciation from the audience.

 

• The Greatest Love of All – The Whitney Houston Show is also on at Wild Coast Sun Resort and Casino on December 30; at the Boardwalk Casino, Port Elizabeth, on January 7; and at GrandWest Casino in Cape Town on January 10. Book at Computicket.

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