Reviewer: Kate Herbert
The Athenaeum Theatre Melbourne 11-27 Jan 2018
Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 1/2 (4&1/2 rating)
Belinda Davids’ impeccable vocal control, remarkable four-octave range and thrilling tone make her an impeccable choice to channel Whitney Houston’s extraordinary voice and distinctive style.
The audience goes wild during this tribute show, The Greatest Love of All — The Whitney Houston Show, directed by Johnny Van Grinsven, as Davids pays homage to Whitney without impersonating her, performing hits from Whitney’s 29-year career that ended tragically in 2012.
The warm, engaging Davids who hails from South Africa, has an effortless, expressive and natural voice, with vocal power, precision and exceptional range that are a perfect match for Whitney’s power ballads.
The song list includes: 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) and Step by Step, with an exhilarating finale of I Will Always Love You.
Davids’ passionate style, rich tone and breathtaking top register bring tears to the eyes, and she even masters Whitney’s signature technique of singing a single syllable while moving between notes.
A few individuals are desperate to dance, but Davids coaxes the entire audience onto its feet to groove to How Will I Know and, later, to Dance With Somebody.
In a poignant, tear-jerking scene, Davids sings the soaring, heartbreaking I Have Nothing while, on a screen behind her, Whitney performs the same tune, wearing the same ruby gown and using the same gestures.
The tight, five-piece band, led by musical director Richard Baker, is a highlight, and Hayden Baird’s saxophone is an evocative accompaniment to Davids’ moving version of I’m Saving All My Love.
The two male acro/hip-hop dancers are diverting, although some of the other choreography is often distracting.
The radiant, accomplished but humble Davids creates emotional and electrifying moments in this production, and her voice must be heard to be believed.