Music: Whitney Houston
Director: John Van Grinsven
Reviewer: Nina Reece
If you never had the pleasure of seeing Whitney Houston live, Belinda Davids in The Greatest Love of All is the closest you will ever get. Produced by Showtime Australia, the performance aims to ‘honour the music, talent and memory of Whitney Houston’ and it very nearly achieves these aims. Creator and director John Van Grinsven auditioned over 15,000 hopefuls to find Davids, who is an undeniable talent. The power of her voice, her gorgeous tone, and her astounding range soar, delighting the audience from the very first number.
Davids’ ability to emulate Houston’s runs and riffs with near perfection are what makes this production. The production itself, however, is what is lacking. The visuals are devoid of the lustre and verve that is synonymous with Whitney, the costuming not quite befitting of an international sell-out tour, and the London Philharmonic Orchestra – with all their glorious musicianship – are left literally in the dark for much of the show.
Incredibly, none of that matters. It is not just Belinda Davids’ four-octave range that endears her to those watching, it is also her presence. She dances well, and heaps all the charm of a true star upon the audience: even touring the stalls during Saving All My Love for You—a diva moment of which Whitney would have approved. Throughout, the dancers and backing singers feed off Davids’ energy, throwing their all into choreography that traverses everything from body popping to ballroom dancing.
This is a show that most certainly does honour the music of Whitney: Queen of the Night, I Wanna Dance, and It’s Not Right are just some of the hits that celebrate of her 35 year-career. It honours her talent: not just with the individual abilities of every single performer on stage, but also their chemistry with one another. But, for this tribute to honour her memory, the production standards would need to echo the perfectionism for which Whitney Houston was famed.
And then again, in the words of Whitney herself: ‘God gave me a voice to sing with, and when you have that, what other gimmick is there?’
Reviewed on Sunday 19 May 2019