Kevin Smith Kirkwood Shares Five Favorite Classic Whitney Houston Videos
July 25th, 2017
by Kevin Smith Kirkwood
Kevin Smith Kirkwood—who has the distinction of being an Angel in Kinky Boots on Broadway since it opened in 2013—brings his acclaimed Whitney Houston tribute show Classic Whitney: Alive! back to Joe's Pub on July 31. It's a must for the fans of Whitney "The Voice" Houston, as Kirkwood channels the voice, look and spirit of the late great legend with a full retrospective concert backed by a full band and back-up singers.
In anticipation of the one-night-only concert event, Kevin shares with BroadwayBox his five favorite Whitney videos on YouTube.
Whitney Houston was a singular talent. The world has mourned the loss of her voice and presence in the music business. Her accomplishments have inspired many. And she leaves with us a body of work that is substantive and stands the test of time. In creating my show, Classic Whitney: Alive! (and frankly from my lifetime love of Whitney), I have spent hours and hours pouring over rare interviews, movie clips, concert footage, and all other things WHITNEY! Here are just a few of my favorite Whitney video clips and why. Enjoy. 😁
Whitney was a singular talent from early on. Here, in one of my favorite rare performances circa 1985, we see Whitney at the tender age of 22, bring down the house with a popular tune from Broadway's Dreamgirls at the Arista 10th Anniversary Celebration. We see her fresh faced, natural haired, and stunning, belting her heart out and delivering the song “I Am Changing” with her gospel-inspired interpretation. She hadn't quite mastered the later control, poise, and nuanced stylings we would later associate with the diva superstar, but you can hear the unmistakable tone, phrasing, and pure POWER of her young voice! 15 years later, she would take the stage and headline the nationally televised Arista 25th Anniversary Special and again bring down the house, but this time with a full medley of hits from her own massive catalog.
This clip is from an interview/appearance that Whitney did on The Arsenio Hall Show back in 1990. It was hot on the heels of her third (and much anticipated) album I'm Your Baby Tonight. She performed several songs from the album including the Stevie Wonder duet "We Didn't Know." The reason I love this short clip is that it's a picture of the full-blown diva, still young and enjoying the meteoric rise of success. She looks radiant and totally comfortable sitting there, chatting it up with long established stars Stevie Wonder and Arsenio Hall, and yet the part that steals the show is this clip of her simply and fondly remembering the first song she sang in church. When she spontaneously starts to sing, a cappella, the whole studio, and I'm sure the world, fell totally silent. And then the smile on her face makes you want to cry imagining how much joy it gave her to sing.
This next clip is the official video for her hit, "I'm Every Woman!" It was one of the many number one singles from the groundbreaking soundtrack to the film that would make Whitney Houston a bonafide movie star, The Bodyguard. The reason I love this video, aside from the fierce choreography, classic black and white footage, and cameo appearances by TLC and the one and only Chaka Kahn (the original artist to record the tune), is that we see Whitney Houston at her absolute best; and some would argue, happiest. Here she is at the height of her fame. She's stunning, glowing, married and pregnant with her only child, Bobbi Kristina. When you think about what an artist or celebrity goes through personally to make a successful career happen, I can't help but look at this video and smile along with Whitney and imagine the happiness she must have felt at this point in her journey.
This is one of my favorite rare clips of Whitney because it shows what amazing versatility she had! It was recorded in 1994 at Carnegie Hall and features stars Luciano Pavarotti, Elton John, and Sting singing “La Donna e Moblile” from Verdi's opera Rigoletto. The other stars do a respectable job covering the popular aria, but when Whitney joins in, the crowd, and even the other stars are all blown away by her range and operatic prowess. There are voice and music experts who have said that Whitney had such natural talent and range that, had she chosen and studied, she could have been an opera star. After watching this clip, it's hard to disagree with that assessment.
This next clip is a live concert arrangement of Whitney's hit song, “I Get So Emotional” from the 1991 Japan leg of the 'I'm Your Baby Tonight' Tour. I love it because it shows her ability to take a seemingly simple pop song and bring it to life in a live concert setting. Notice the extra music and DANCE breaks. Whitney loved to dance! And while she, admittedly, wasn't a Janet Jackson caliber dancer, she never shied away from moving and grooving during her live performances. This arrangement is one of the new tunes we've added for this incarnation of Classic Whitney: Alive!, and there will definitely be dancing!
Get ready to dance, praise, and LIVE as Kevin Smith Kirkwood takes on Whitney Houston in 'Classic Whitney: Alive!' at Joe’s Pub on July 31.