Belinda Davids, the star of The Greatest Love of All – The Whitney Houston Show, is set to open the run of the show at the Artscape Opera House on 21 June 2017, and Cape Town is abuzz with Whitney-inspired excitement.
You soon realise that The Greatest Love of All is more than just another tribute show or simply a music concert, when Davids shares her thoughts about it. She explains that it allows people to go on a walk down Whitney Houston memory lane (more than once if they so wish) in a theatrical setting. “We are paying homage to the voice in a way where people can enjoy all the aspects of whom she really was. I think if we went to a bigger venue for only one time, it wouldn't be the same. Also, we are reaching all age groups not just young but also older people who like the idea of sitting in a really beautiful set up with the option to dance to the music.”
This is not the first time that Davids has graced a local stage with this production, but since the last tour to Cape Town she has performed The Greatest Love of All around the world. Surely that level of international exposure shapes a performer greatly, to the extent that we may see a different Davids onstage this time around?
“I think I've gone through stages of denial and acceptance” Davids admits. “At first I didn't know what I was getting into. And then we started traveling to places I didn't even think knew who Whitney Houston was and it sort of forced me to really start taking care of myself because I had this sense that it was going to last longer than I realised. In this, I sense I became a lot more disciplined as an artist and performer. I am a lot more comfortable in my style.”
On a personal level Houston and the show has also left a mark on Davids herself. “I don't feel I need to fit in anymore. I dress how I want. I have become a lot more disciplined not just as an artist but as a mother. When you are happily forced to be healthy and take care of yourself then it bleeds into your home and your children and everyone around you. And when your healthy you are happy and then everyone else around you is happy. Happiness is love and love means peace."
Along with shaping Davids as a performer and person, the touring has allowed the show itself to adapt and change, so that even audience that saw the previous Cape Town staging of The Greatest Love of All can still be surprised by it this time around. Davids reveals that a lot of this growth and develop is because of teamwork. “I have an amazing team behind me. We have amazing dancers, we have five different costumes. We made some small changes, very effective changes that would just step up the quality of the show.”
With such creative support and vision how can the vibrant energy of the production not just grow in theatrical strength, but that is in part because of the audiences too, Davids explains. “As far as the crowds are concerned we get all sorts, for instance when we go to Germany they are a lot more reserved in the audience arenas or theatres in comparison to how open we perform here at home, but the one thing they all have in common is they all LOVE Whitney Houston. As far as the theatre scene is concerned we've had nothing but amazing support from all the theatres in all the countries we have been to.”
The show clearly resonates strongly with audiences on an emotional level, even if they aren’t necessarily Whitney fans. Davids explains the power of that connection lies in the musical influence and reach of Houston’s hits. “Because we do all of her greatest hits in the show, whether you are an extreme fan or not you will either become a fan and you will enjoy it fully. I have had many people come to me after and said that they weren't really huge fans of Whitney but after they heard and saw the show they have become true fans.”
For extreme fans this is however a next level moment seeing such a true tribute to the legend of their Diva onstage. Davids shares that people even start forgetting that it is not really Houston onstage. “I had an experience in Berlin where we had a full house and as soon as the lights went out for the show to start people started screaming of excitement. I was back stage getting ready to go on and I asked my tour manager ‘do they know it’s not really Whitney Houston?’ So yes, I think people do get wrapped up to the point where they forget. And that means I am doing something right. Which makes my job a lot more special.”
In the end what Davids wants audiences to take away from the show is a very clear Houston legacy message. “She wasn't all about drugs and the negative headlines we read about her. She was successful and famous because of her gift. And people did once upon a time love her for just that.”
Building on that positive approach to the image and experience the show is trying to create, it is also very telling that Davids is in a Houston-channeling frame of mind, when she talks about her favourite show moment and song. “Oh the showstopper when I mimic her. You will have to come to the show to see that moment. It's very special to me." Along with that wow moment, her favourite Houston song very aptly is “The Greatest Love of All”, because “she talks to women, mothers, young girls and the song encourages everyone to love yourself because that is the greatest love of all. And not to lose your pride in the process. It's so powerful, because we as women often don't realise how much power we have within us.”
Catch Belinda Davids onstage at the Artscape Opera House as Whitney Houston in The Greatest Love of All - The Whitney Houston Show from 21 June to 16 July 2017, with tickets available at Computicket, because everyone wants to dance with somebody! Don't forget to share your show experience with all on Twitter, using the hashtag #WhitneyHoustonShow.