The superb vocals of South African singer Belinda Davids bring one of the greatest talents of our generation, Whitney Houston, back to life. With her searing vocals, Houston sold as many as 200 million records worldwide and is the only artist to chart seven consecutive No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hits. She tragically passed away in Los Angeles on 11th February 2012 at the age of 48. Houston was found dead in her room at the Beverly Hilton. According to Wikipedia, the official coroner’s report showed that she had accidentally drowned in the bathtub, with heart disease and cocaine use listed as contributing factors.
The tribute show, which includes a five piece international band, a South African backing vocalist, together with four acrobatic dancers (the two men in particular were excellent), spans Houston’s 29 year career. It includes hits 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 I Will Always Love You.
Producers spent more than a year crafting the show and finding the singer to be the headline performer. They conducted in excess of 15,000 auditions in 12 countries and couldn’t have chosen better, for Davids’ vocals are a revelation. If you close your eyes you can hear Houston. What greater compliment is there?
Davids, who was born in Port Elizabeth, began performing professionally at the age of 14. While her four-octave range gives her the ability to sing any genre, her musical heart has always been R&B. Her inspirations as a child were Aretha Franklin, Anita Baker, Chaka Khan, Donny Hathaway and Michael Jackson. Then, not surprisingly, there was the one artist whom she still honours in every show she performs, Whitney Houston.
Davids, like Houston, possesses an astounding voice and like so many budding performers was singing around the house and humming to music on the radio at a young age. But she never had any vocal training and yet is now well on her way to becoming a bona fide international star in her own right.
The Greatest Love Of All – The Whitney Houston Show in playing in Melbourne following sold-out tours to Dubai, New Zealand, Canada, the US and South Africa. It is on at the Athenaeum Theatre, 188 Collins Street, until 3oth May and runs for 2 hours 20 minutes including a 20-minute interval.
My only reservations were the number of times Davids tried to ingratiate herself to the audience by mentioning Melbourne. It must have been referenced on eight to 10 occasions and it grated after a while. She had the audience eating out of the palm of her hands anyway.
Also, several members of the rowdy Saturday night crowd I saw the performance with had no consideration for audience members around them. They were shifting back and forth in their chairs, waving their arms wildly, jumping up and down and mouthing the words of Whitney’s songs as if trying to draw admiration for their efforts. Their actions merely served to blight the enjoyment of others. A number of them had clearly over imbibed and acted like spoiled school kids, even though several of them appeared to be aged 50 plus. Finally, while the audience wasn’t allowed to use flash photography during the show, they could take video and photos without flash and that, too, became a constant distraction. None of these latter remarks detracted from the strength of Davids’ performance, but – as you can gather – it was a serious impediment to an otherwise extremely positive experience.
Still, I give The Greatest Love Of All – The Whitney Houston Show an 8 out of 10.
Venue: Athenaeum Theatre, Melbourne
Dates: to 30 May 2015
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television