If Whitney Houston (1963-2012) is, even in death, ‘Queen of the Night’, then who is ‘Queen of the Day’? These are the sorts of questions that fleetingly crossed my mind during Whitney – Queen of the Night, which has even less exposition than Thriller Live. There are a few moments in which the audience is given a few facts about Houston’s life, but nothing that her fans didn’t know already – she won Grammy awards and sold millions of records. Like many Americans, Houston believed in God, so the sound of the hymn ‘Jesus Loves Me’ filled the Savoy Theatre, though I suspect the audience, on the whole, appreciated the melodic harmonies more than the religious content.
I must confess I never had the privilege of seeing Miss Houston perform live, so I cannot comment on how Elesha Paul Moses’ stage presence compares. This is undeniably a concert more than anything else, and the sparse amount of spoken word took a little getting used to. I warmed to it in the end: this isn’t one of those events where the audience is repeatedly asked how they are doing, only for the lead singer to claim not to be able to hear the crowd’s adulation, and so on, ad infinitum. Thank goodness for that.
Moses has a busy year ahead, performing in this as well as another touring production celebrating the music of Tina Turner. Vocally, there’s nothing (or as Miss Houston would have it, “nothing, nothing, nothing”) to complain about, inasmuch as Moses hits the high notes, the big notes, the long notes, and all the other notes in between. The choreography (Leona Marie) flows well but there’s a tad too much ‘armography’, to borrow a term from BBC Television’s ‘Strictly Come Dancing’. Moses is very much a team player, seamlessly lining up with the backing singers and dancers, Amarra Smith, Claire Newman and Katy Eckland, such that they all move as a unit.
Mike Pagett on the drum kit leads a five-piece band, with Paul Sandercock on guitar, Derek Baxter on bass, Jim Hannah on keys and Kit Mlynar on the saxophone. Most impressive to me, however, was Natalie Roberts’ lighting and wardrobe design. Moses’ dresser was kept busy throughout the evening: some of the dresses wouldn’t be out of place in the glamorous Dreamgirls, which played in the same venue not so long ago. The lighting was, in a word, perfect – ranging from dynamic to subtle according to the requirements of each song.
As the show went on, one realises how varied the Whitney Houston back catalogue is. ‘Saving All My Love’ is essentially about infidelity (“A few stolen moments is all that we share / You’ve got your family and they need you there”), while ‘When You Believe’, as the title suggests, is full of hope and encouragement. The second half was livelier than the first half, and I think it was ‘My Love is Your Love’ that got the audience pumped up more than they did previously, thanks in part to some audience participation (please don’t be put off by that, it’s only – spoiler alert – a collective singalong to a tune a lot of members of the audience knew anyway).
Moses, who doesn’t overdo it, combines British understatement with the sort of confidence and assertiveness that songs like ‘I’m Every Woman’ demand. She also brilliantly put the energy of a particularly enthusiastic audience member to good use, seeing as he was already on his feet half a dozen songs away from the bit at which everyone is invited to stand and enjoy the likes of ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’. ‘Lee’ turned out to be a ‘triple threat’, bringing the house down. All things considered, it’s a decent and enjoyable night out.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Whitney – Queen of the Night is a stunning celebration of the music and life of one of the greatest singers of our time.
This phenomenal production consistently delivers an outstanding concert that has been described as ‘a powerhouse performance that delivers on every level…’
Taking audiences on a magical rollercoaster ride through three decades of nostalgic hits that include:
I Wanna Dance With Somebody, One Moment In Time, I’m Every Woman, I Will Always Love You, My Love Is Your Love, So Emotional Baby, Run to You, Saving All My Love, How Will I Know, Million Dollar Bill, The Greatest Love Of All, and many more…
Join us for an unmissable evening as we pay homage to the Queen of Pop with a sensational cast and a stunning live band.
Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes (including interval)
Sunday 24th March 2019 at 7.00pm
Sunday 2nd June 2019 at 7.00m
Savoy Theatre 7th July 2019
Sunderland Empire 4th May 2019
New Wimbledon Theatre 12th June 2019
Theatre Royal Glasgow 8th September 2019
Milton Keynes Theatre 6th October 2019
Alexandra Theatre 25th October 2019
New Theatre Oxford 7th November 2019
Grand Opera House, York 14th November 2019
Liverpool Empire 17th November 2019
Aylesbury Waterside Theatre 21st November 2019
Victoria Hall 22nd November 2019