Friday, 15 May 2015

The Greatest Love of All, May 15, 2015 ****1/2

The Whitney Houston Show
Athenaeum Theatre, until May 23, 2015
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ****1/2
Full review also  published online in Herald Sun on Mon May 18 then later in print. KH

Belinda Davids’ thrilling tones, consummate vocal control and staggering four-octave range are as close as a singer can get to a replication of Whitney Houston’s voice.

During Davids’ tribute show, The Greatest Love Of All, the bevy of Whitney fans were delirious with delight at her channelling of Whitney’s recognisable voice and her exhilarating performance of hits from Whitney’s 29-year career that ended tragically in 2012.

The repertoire 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), Step by Step with a finale of I Will Always Love You.

The warm and charming Davids has an effortless, natural voice although, like Houston herself, Davids had no formal vocal training – something that can lead to vocal damage as it did for Whitney.

Davids pays tribute to Whitney at ‘the top of her game’ rather than impersonating her, and Davids’ vocal power, precision and exceptional range make her the queen of the power ballad.

She sings with passion and commitment, her rich, belting notes and electrifying top register bring tears to the eyes and she masters Whitney’s signature ‘melisma’ – the technique of singing a single syllable while moving between notes.

Although she seems a little shy and nervous at the start, Davids charms and engages the audience with her warmth and sassiness in a performance that is less vulnerable, fragile and emotional than Whitney’s own delivery.

Despite being in a theatre with limited aisle space, Davids encourages an entire audience onto its feet to dance to How Will I Know If He Really Loves Me, then again during Dance With Somebody.

In a remarkably effective and affecting moment, Davids sings the soaring and heartbreaking hit, I Have Nothing, while standing in front of a mute video of Whitney performing the same tune and wearing the same, elegant, ruby-red gown.

Led by musical director Richard Baker, the on stage band is taut and assured, and Hayden Baird’s evocative saxaphone accompanies Davids in a moving rendition of I’m Saving All My Love.

The two male dancers are entertaining with their blend of acro-dance and hip-hop, but the choreography for the two female dancers is often distracting.

There are breathtaking and tear jerking moments in this production in which the luminous and accomplished Davids shines, and even non-Whitney fans will love it.

Kate Herbert

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