Finding Musical Magic Via Technical Wizardry

Poster for 'An Evening with Whitney: The Whitney Houston Hologram Concert'
(all images via Base Hologram)

An Evening With Whitney: The Whitney Houston Hologram Concert began performances at Harrah’s Showroom in Las Vegas giving fans the chance to relive the musical magic that was Whitney Houston in a new way.

The production, a venture co-produced by BASE Entertainment’s BASE Hologram division, along with The Estate of Whitney E. Houston and the GFour Productions company, debuted in February 2020 in the UK just before the pandemic put a pause on attending concert events in person. 

In this case, “in person” being the fans, not the star. 

A moment from 'An Evening with Whitney: The Whitney Houston Hologram Concert'

The concert event is comprised of four live musicians and four dancers who accompany the computer-generated image of Houston onstage throughout the evening. The hologram is the result of digitally grafting captured performances of the singer on to an actress body-double whose movements were choreographed and shot months ago.

Projected onto a scrim, amid the dancers and musicians, this “Whitney” is guaranteed to be in fine voice at every performance. AND she makes lightning-fast costume changes in the blink of an eye.

Here’s a video teaser shot during the UK performances in 2020. I’ve been told the production has evolved a bit since this was shot, but the essence of what an audience will see is here.

 

This writer attended a performance of the event in Las Vegas last week, and while I admit I had some reservations, I was pleasantly surprised by the experience.

For folks who only read headlines it would be easy to turn up one’s nose and look down on the concept of seeing a hologram in concert. But it’s important to keep a few things in mind.

One, the producers aren’t attempting to fool ticket buyers into believing the diva is actually onstage. Mark Swanhart, the show’s creative director, recently told the Washington Post, “We’re not pretending she’s here. But I believe her spirit, her essence, is here.”

Two, the live aspect of the band and dancers – all who are top-notch and turning it out – bring a human element that helps balance the obviously projected star. Add in the gorgeous visuals projected onstage and throughout the 550-seat Harrahs showroom, and you have first-class elements that elevate the evening.

And three, everyone at the performance I attended was LIVING to hear those amazing vocals again. “How Will I Know,” “The Greatest Love of All,” “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” “I Will Always Love You” and more (all lifted from concert footage) ring out over and around the audience. And the crowd was pleased. 

Poster for 'An Evening with Whitney: The Whitney Houston Hologram Concert'

Is she in “perfect voice?” Of course, and to be honest, it’s terrific to remember our queen this way.

The first 15 minutes or so you could sense some people didn’t know how they should react at the end of a song. Do you applaud a hologram? The answer, by the way, is yes – along with the terrific band and dancers.

But after just a few songs the crowd was bouncing in their seats, clapping, cheering, and reliving “the voice.”

Robinson moves the show along with skill and precision serving up dancers hitting muscular choreography reminiscent of classic 80s music videos.

In several numbers, like “I’m Every Woman,” the hologram’s movements are seamlessly integrated with the dancers’ choreography.

As a counter-point, for “Your Love Is My Love,” the dancers sit down around “Whitney” in jam session/love fest fashion. And in “Run to You,” a gorgeous rain effect keeps the visual magic evolving.

Throughout the packed 80-minute show, “Whitney” moves around the stage (just a bit since “she” has to stay on that scrim upstage), acknowledging the band and audience. By the end of the show, the audience has clearly had a good time.

It’s almost like falling into a YouTube Whitney Houston music video hole for the night only on a huge, extravagant scale.

This writer was/is a huge Whitney fan. And I definitely walked out with a smile on my face.

One more thing: Las Vegas audiences are used to paying to see top-notch celebrity impersonators live onstage like at the iconic “Legends in Concert” production which has run for decades on the Strip. And the price point for such shows – versus seeing actual current music artists like Celine Dion and Gwen Stefani – are adjusted to reflect that bit of reality (or “illusion”).

Ticket prices at An Evening With Whitney range from $49 to $92, while Gwen Stefani’s Just A Girl concert at Planet Hollywood have a top ticket price of $325. And Usher – The Vegas Residency at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace which tops out at $625 for primo tickets. Although these are a different kind of live entertainment, if you’re watching your duckets during a trip to Vegas, you might want to keep expenses in mind.

Longtime Las Vegas entertainment guru John Katsilometes reports An Evening With Whitney is already breaking even at the box office after less than a week of performances.

Is a concert with hologram “Whitney” for everyone? Maybe not. But if you’re a fan and you want to experience the music in person, this theatrical concert experience could make you “Wanna Dance With Somebody” on your way out the door.

For more information about An Evening With Whitney: The Whitney Houston Hologram Concert, head over to the official website.

Leave a Comment