Clock strikes upon the hour and the sun begins to fade as the audience descends into the glitzy cavern of the Savoy Theatre. Bathed in a soft fuchsia light, the auditorium sparkles with anticipation. As we find our seats, a selection of 80’s pop hits plays gently in the background before the five-piece band and backing singers make their way on to the stage. The lights dim and a single spot opens on the stage as a celestial figure, clad all in white, glides into the space. Whitney has arrived.
Taking us on a journey through Whitney Houston’s endlessly enjoyable repertoire of instantly recognisable hits, this concert is spotted with brief insights into her earlier life, unveiling some interesting trivia and celebrating the impact her music had on the world. Presented in a loosely chronological arrangement, we are treated to such crowd-pleasers as ‘How Will I Know’, ‘So Emotional’ and of course the immortal ‘I Will Always Love You’. Elesha Paul Moses taking the reins in a hybrid performance – equal parts compere and embodiment of Whitney – as the audience is encouraged to lend their voices to the celebration. And they don’t need telling twice. After only a few moments of nervous uncertainty, the entire auditorium swells as the evening becomes a sing-along with fantastic moments of audience participation.
For avid Whitney fans, this is an evening of unbridled joy. For the more casual admirer of Ms Houston’s music, it’s hard not to be swept up in the feel-good atmosphere. The evening is orchestrated in such a way that it is impossible not to want to stand up in the aisles and join in the song and dance. Leading the charge, Elesha Paul Moses expertly walks the line between hosting the concert and performing in the iconic style of Whitney. Her voice echoes the famously rich tone and undeniable strength of the pop icon wonderfully, her mannerisms are well-observed and accurate without becoming a caricature and she is charismatic and likeable – interacting with the audience with effortless charm. Simone Robinson, Amarra Smith and Claire Newman fabulously support the performance with strong backing vocals and crisp choreography. They are each given moments to showcase their individual voices throughout as well, which serves to keep the production refreshed while affording Moses the opportunity to make several costume changes.
The arrangement of these instantly recognisable pop hits is beautifully constructed, and Michael Paget’s musical direction creates a seamless flow from one song to the next. The running order of the show is well paced and skilfully balances the slower ballads with high energy hits, keeping the audience enthralled as the show develops. At all times, there is a hugely enjoyable familiarity and relaxed atmosphere that entices everyone to join in the celebration of Whitney’s legacy by singing along.
Whether you’re a seasoned servant to the Queen of the Night or if you just ‘wanna dance with somebody’, this is an undeniably entertaining night out!
Reviewed by Alex Foott
INTERVIEW: Elesha Paul Moses talks about bringing WHITNEY: QUEEN OF THE NIGHT to the West End
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