The Las Vegas Strip hologram residency is upon us. Late R&B superstar Whitney Houston’s hologram is starring in “An Evening With Whitney: The Whitney Houston Hologram Concert,” at Flamingo Showroom beginning April 14.
The show represents the first full-scale hologram production on the Las Vegas Strip. Hologram technology has been used as a component to existing productions, chiefly in “Michael Jackson One” at Mandalay Bay. The show promises a live-concert experience featuring a Houston hologram image and her remastered greatest hits, performed by a five-piece band and with backing singers and dancers. The set list includes “I Will Always Love You,” “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me),” “The Greatest Love of All,” along with her cover of Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love.”
The show is produced by the Estate of Whitney E. Houston; Base Hologram, which is a division of longtime Vegas entertainment company Base Entertainment; and GFour Productions, which produces “Menopause The Musical” at Harrah’s.
“Whitney” runs 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays (dark Mondays) in an open-ended engagement, splitting dates with “Ru Paul Drag Race Live!” currently performing and Derek Hough’s production opening June 2. Tickets range from $39 to $99 (not including fees) and will be on sale at 10 a.m. Friday at Ticketmaster.com or WhitneyVegas.com, by phone at 702-777-2783, or at the Flamingo Las Vegas box office.
While Houston’s vocal tracks have been digitally upgraded and the music is performed live onstage, her hologram figure is portrayed by an actress who has worked for more than two months on video performing Houston’s movements. As Base Entertainment and Base Hologram chairman and CEO Brian Becker explains, CGI technology has been used to convert the image “too look exactly like Whitney, or as much like her as possible.”
“The reason we do it that way is, first of all we want to have her actual vocals, originally sung by her,” Becker said in a phone conversation Tuesday morning. “And this is a scripted show, and the only way to be able to do that is to be able to control the interaction and have the image do what we want it to do. Having an actress portray her allows us to create this show.”
Fatima Robinson, who directed Houston in her “I’m Every Woman” and “My Name’s Not Susan” videos, among others, has choreographed the stage show. Robinson has also worked on the “Dreamgirls” feature film, the Super Bowl halftime show, the Oscars and Grammy telecasts, and videos from Rihanna, Kanye West and Mary J. Blige.
Houston’s estate has long been reviewing concepts and developing a hologram concert tour of the R&B legend. “An Evening With Whitney” has finished a 24-city European tour.
“In 2011, Whitney and I discussed her idea of an intimate, unplugged concert tour. It was a project we called ‘Whitney Unplugged’ or ‘An Evening with Whitney,’ ” Pat Houston, Whitney’s former manager and president and CEO of the Estate of Whitney E. Houston, said in a statement. “While Whitney’s no longer with us, her voice and legacy will live on with us forever.”
Base Entertainment has been known to be working on hologram technology for years, with some prep work on the Houston show conducted at Criss Angel Mindfreak Theater at Planet Hollywood. The company also produces a dual Roy Orbison/Buddy Holly hologram tour, a solo Orbison show and a production featuring opera legend Maria Callas. Those projects have been prepped at Opaline Theater at The Venetian, the former home of the Base-produced “Rock of Ages” musical.
This new Houston production seizes on Houston’s vast catalogue, and her enduring popularity as a tribute figure in such shows as “Legends In Concert” at the Tropicana, a former Flamingo Showroom production.
“This is a way to experience her in concert, in a very authentic show, with great music and special effects done in a way to re-create the Whitney Houston experience,” Becker said. “If you walk in the door thinking, ‘I really want to have a great evening and suspend my belief and experience some incredible music onstage,’ you’re going to be blown away. You’ll love it.”
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.