Reviewer: Jade Kops
Friday 2nd February 2018, 8pm, State Theatre Sydney
Belinda Davids celebrates the music and memory of Whitney Houston in THE GREATEST LOVE OF ALL: THE Whitney Houston SHOW. As part of an international tour that started in 2013, this sincere and heartwarming concert, filled with crowd favourites from Houston’s extensive catalogue, delighted Sydney audiences for one night only.
Director and Producer John Van Grinsven Snr has chosen the perfect performer to recreate Houston’s sound as South African born Belinda Davids replicates the famous songs with uncanny accuracy. In addition to her amazing sound, Davids also looks like her childhood idol with legs for days, an abundance of curls and a beautiful face that radiates sincerity, emotion and enjoyment. To further reinforce the image, Davids dons an array of fabulous outfits inspired by Houston’s style and in some cases are recreations of iconic gowns. The replica of the red beaded fringe Diane von Furstenburg dress worn in 1993 for the performance of I Have Nothing at the Billboard Awards is worn whilst archive footage of the original concert is projected behind Davids, showing a pinpoint recreation of the performance down to the smallest gesture. A replica of the one sleeved Kaufman Franco white dress the singer wore at the 2009 American Music Awards stuns the audience as Davids delivers the encore I Will Always Love You and Glory! Glory!.
Davids is supported by an extremely talented, multi-national ensemble of five-piece band, backing vocalist Giselle Bouwer (South Africa), and four dancers. The band comprises Musical Director and guitarist Richie Baker (Australia), drummer Kyle Thompson (Australia), Hayden Baird (New Zealand) on saxophone, flute and keyboard, Steve Dennett (South Africa) on Bass guitar and pianist Giles Tingey (Canada). The dancers include Clasina Van Grinsven (Australia) as dance captain and Sandile Zulu, Nathan Adriaanse and Golda Rabe, all from South Africa. The vibe from all the performers is that of a cohesive and committed team that enjoy working together to bring this fabulous production to Houston’s adoring fans, having fun with cheeky little interactions throughout. There is a high level of respect between the performers for the collective talent on stage and the acknowledgement of the band and vocalists with free form solos shows off their incredible talents. The dancers are skilled in a variety of styles which range from hip-hop, breakdance and ballroom and the dance off between Zulu and Adriaanse is delightful.
Van Grinsven Snr has selected a range of Houston’s work to ensure there are high energy moments contrasted with the heartfelt ballads. Davids encourages dancing (for those in seats that allow it), singing along and even photography, increasing the audience engagement. Whilst the authorisation to record and photograph the performance is a bit annoying, resulting in audience members seeing lit up screens in front of them, it was heart-warming to look around and watch the audience singing along to the beautiful ballads like Greatest Love Of All. Van Grinsven Snr has ensured that the focus stays on the live performance with minimal use of the large screen to present images of Houston which also allows the dual performance of I Have Nothing to be even more powerful. Whilst other tribute shows provide more detail of the artists career, THE GREATEST LOVE OF ALL: THE Whitney Houston SHOW focuses more on the music, assuming that the audience are familiar with Houston’s history. Instead, Davids patter includes her own connection to Houston and the music, having grown up idolising the diva, providing a more personal show without becoming self-indulgent.
Whilst THE GREATEST LOVE OF ALL: THE Whitney Houston SHOW has finished it’s current Australian tour, it moves to New Zealand shortly before continuing the world tour. If it returns to Australia, go and see it, regardless of whether you are a committed Whitney fan or simply just interested in seeing a great concert.