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long live Whitney Houston

Belinda Davids “brought” Whitney Houston to Johannesburg on Thursday night and those in attendance welcomed “both” divas with open arms.

Just after 8pm, Davids strolled onto The Mandela stage of the Joburg Theatre in a figure-hugging black and cream gown and very high stilettos. Her mission: to deliver The Greatest Love of All: The Whitney Houston Tribute Show that is a big hit overseas already.

Before that, though, John van Grinsven Snr, the CEO of Showtime Australia, walked onto the stage to praise the amazing Davids, a gem he found in Port Elizabeth after an auditioning process that had spanned 12 different countries.

Although he was sceptical at first – this was the 15 000th rendition of the late Houston’s I Will Always Love You global hit he had heard – he was so glad he gave Davids his ear because she was exactly what he had been looking for. He joked about audience reactions overseas when they hear she is from Port Elizabeth.

A mega fan of Houston’s since she was 14, Davids had worked her socks off to sound just like her idol and it showed, he said.

He said Davids had already had such a huge impact on audiences in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, among others, where she performed to full-capacity audiences. Five costume changes later, it was a fantastic two-hour show during which South Africa’s rising star channelled her idol in beautifully delivered renditions of her most popular hit songs.

The amazing performance brought the house down, had the audience dancing and, at the end of the show just after 10pm, the crowd was calling out for more. It was a second homecoming of sorts for both divas. After a successful six-week run at the same venue last year, the highly anticipated show at the Joburg Theatre will run until February 15.

Davids, her band and all members of her supporting acts, looked truly happy to be home. “The beautiful thing about being home is that I don’t have to say things twice,” Davis said to loud applause.

Apart from the three Australians and a Canadian in the line-up, all the 13-member team are South Africans – three backing singers and four dancers among them.
“Let’s make this clear. This is a tribute to Whitney Houston, the queen of pop, when she was on top of her game,” Davids said by way of introduction.
“She was fabulous.” Not that the diva needed any introduction at all.

And Davids did not disappoint her audience, delivering near-perfectly a host of Houston’s irresistible classics, among them One Moment in Time, Saving My Love For You, I’m Your Baby Tonight, I’m Every Woman, Exhale, Didn’t We Almost Have It All and her greatest hit of all – I Will Always Love You.

It was an intimate performance, with her asking her audience to get up and dance, clap their hands and sing along. “When you came out to night, you knew you were going to dance, sing along and have a lot of fun,” she said.

Not that the audience needed much coaxing. They obliged and everyone in the house seemed to know every word of the songs. A great night was had by all and the same awaits others until February 15. – Doreen Zimbizi