Whitney Houston is a woman requiring very little introduction. She was a legend, incredibly talented, and loved by millions. Her distinctive voice made her one of the best loved performers in recent decades.
Whitney – Queen of the night is described as “A stunning celebration of the music and life of one of the greatest singers of our time” and was at The Waterside Theatre for one night only. I was not entirely clear if the show was going to be a tribute act, a musical or something in-between, and hoped Whitney’s songs wouldn’t be given a karaoke style makeover.
The show begins with the band on stage, and they are quickly joined by the backing singers (Seonaid Bowers, Shanice Smith and a third lady not listed on the show’s website). Rebecca Freckleton then makes her entrance, and begins to sing (no pressure to be perfect or anything!). It is undeniable that her voice is breathtaking, and it is obvious she has taken the time to study Whitney’s voice in order to imitate her so closely. Her vocal range is impressive, and she carries the melodies with ease. The band are on point, and Seonaid, Shanice and third lady (she of no name! sorry!) provide spine tingling harmonies. After a few songs Rebecca then addresses the audience, and the intense atmosphere is shattered with some humour. I found it a little strange that she breaks character, and talks to the audience about Whitney’s career. I’m not a huge fan of tribute acts and don’t watch them, so I’m not clear if that’s a normal thing to do! In my opinion it would have been better to remain in character (if she was meant to be being Whitney?), or to make it clear that she is performing the songs as a tribute, and not “acting” as Whitney. I was also dubious as the show opens with a couple of slow numbers; I would have expected some upbeat toe-tappers first to get the blood pumping before hitting us with the ballads! Things get a little more interesting when Rebecca does a duet of “When you believe” with one of her backing singers, which is really spectacular. Their voices together are just incredible, and they both do Whitney and Mariah justice (which is high praise indeed given the calibre of the original artists!). Leading up to the interval there is a costume change and the pace picks up, which in my opinion was a little overdue.
After the interval the show provides more variety, including a guest appearance. The person (trying not to spoil it for anyone going to see it) got tonight’s audience up on their feet, increasing the energy in the room. All the classic Whitney hits get a good airing, and the audience are encouraged to sing along and get lost in the music. The cast are all mega talented, and the performance flows well. There is more dance, and an overall more party atmosphere – closer to what I had envisaged for the evening. I would have liked a bit more of a thread throughout, as Rebecca talks a bit about Whitney as a youngster, and then further on in her pop career, but there isn’t much continuity. Whitney’s first album is mentioned, but there isn’t a discography as such. My preference would be to either break up the songs with more facts/information etc, or to be more explicit about the chronology of Whitney’s career and it’s impact on the running order. Ideally the set up on stage could have changed in the second half, or the guest appearance could have been an opportunity to give a flavour of Whitney’s life through some acting perhaps.
That said, the show was a real musical treat. I was amazed to see most of the audience on their feet dancing and giving standing ovations during the latter stages, and it was obvious the show had exceeded expectations. All the performers were fantastic, and my friend and I particularly enjoyed the lady playing a multitude of different wind instruments! A fun evening out for any Whitney fans wanting to celebrate her greatest hits in style.
The company are touring until next year, so click on the link below to find a performance near you!