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Whitney Houston hologram show ‘a fantasy that becomes a reality’

Updated October 28, 2021 - 6:35 pm

Rare is the production that truly offers a concept that has never been attempted on the Strip. We have such a presentation at Harrah’s Showroom, a bold venture in which a departed superstar is depicted theatrically, as a hologram.

“An Evening With Whitney: The Whitney Houston Hologram Tour” has opened for previews at Harrah’s Showroom. The show alternating with Donny Osmond in the showroom, a venture co-produced by BASE Entertainment’s BASE Hologram division, alongside The Estate of Whitney E. Houston and the GFour Productions company.

Base has been working on hologram shows at the old Opaline Theater at The Venetian at least since 2018, presenting the images of Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly and Maria Callas. The technology has been applied in Las Vegas, in short form, in Cirque’s “Michael Jackson One” at Mandalay Bay. A distant Jackson images performs a few moves during “Man in the Mirror” near the end of the show.

But this new Houston show goes for full effect, with the hologram-as-front women performing over Houston’s remastered audio tracks. Patricia Houston, Houston’s sister-in-law and also manager at the time of the singer’s death in February 2012, says fans will be taken with the show’s mix of Houston’s theatrical image, vocal tracks, a live band and dancers.

“We know that utilizing hologram technology is extremely unique, and I think I think audiences will be drawn into that experience because it’s it’s also it’s a fantasy that becomes a reality,” Houston said in a phone interview during the show’s run-up to Vegas. “It’s a celebration of her work, and Whitney loved her craft and to have musicians and dancers onstage …. I think she would have loved the idea.”

The overarching question in such a show is if it maintains the superstar’s artistic integrity. Houston is already depicted in tribute shows, especially “Legends in Concert,” which takes great pains to make sure the performances are up to standard. Houston said her late sister-in-law’s voice, her music, will win the night.

“It’s one of these things where one would be thrilled to see her onstage or hear her music in this situation, and know she is being honored in a way that no one else can do,” Houston said. “It depends solely on the emotional attachment of her music, and it’s an overwhelming experience that’s being revisited by a pop-culture phenomenon. That’s what she was.”

Houston said she and Whitney had discussed a scaled-back performance shortly before Whitney’s death at age 48. The Harrah’s show is the type of concept being mapped out.

“Whitney commanded the stage and she gave her fans everything that she had when she performed, and her music means so much to so many people, that’s why we’re doing this hologram production,” Houston said. “It’s something we talked about probably weeks prior to her passing, an evening with Whitney, smaller performances, other than seeking out larger arena performances.”

Houston said she took in an Orbison/Callas hologram show in Atlanta four years ago. She took her mother and also her daughter, age 18 at the time. Houston hadn’t told her family that they were watching holograms.

“Just before intermission, Roy Orbison just kind of swirled and went away,” Houston said. “My daughter said, ‘Mommy what was that?’ I told her it was a hologram, She didn’t know Roy Orbison, she said, ‘You mean, that wasn’t a real person?’ There was this big ‘Wow’ factor.

“For them not to recognize it was a hologram onstage was incredible, and they were so emotionally tied to the music. That particular show won me over.”

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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