I am feeling like a bit of a Stackner Cabaret ‘tween at the moment…too young to have appreciated Dean Martin (Dino just closed at the Stackner : see my response here) and too old to have been a fan of Whitney Houston. But I am being a little melodramatic here because I should admit that Beehive was in my wheelhouse (see my response here).
But yes, I didn’t really know what to expect from The Greatest Love for Whitney other than I was about to experience some incredible performers in outstanding performances…the high bar that The Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s Stackner Cabaret has set for itself. But everyone else knew why they were there and from the shout outs and sing-a-longs and applause, this show met with their expectations for a Whitney Houston experience!
And obviously Rep Artistic Director Mark Clements is a huge Whitney fan. And he has created an elegant and moving tribute to Whitney. The Stackner stage is just filled with star presence in actors Alina Cherone and Alesia Miller and the Rep’s own Musical Director Dan Kazemi as accompanist.
Cherone and Miller have the perfect voices to showcase Whitney’s catalog of songs. And they trade off one after another taking the lead role…or double up when the song calls for extra emphasis…or bring up the harmonies when needed! Not a wrong note here. And in between the songs they present some background from Whitney’s career. And they also provide us with how Whitney provided them with a role model that helped bring them to the Stackner stage.
And Kazemi accompanies them on piano and keeps the orchestral backing tracks rolling right along. It was great to see him in the footlights on stage rather than just a photo in the program this time!
And I almost forgot…and how could I? Alesia Miller is a Milwaukee native and brings some local color to the stories she tells about growing up and pursuing the stage and music!
And just an elegant and simple cabaret stage…stools…piano…microphones…drape rear curtain…and a neon Whitney signature sign. A completely supportive environment…nothing to distract from the actors or the music.
The Greatest Love for Whitney continues at the Rep’s Stackner Cabaret through May 28, 2023…additional information here. The link includes access to the trailer and rehearsal videos.
Extra credit reading: The Program.
And when you go, you may see Charlotte Odusanya as one of the actors…she wasn’t on stage the night that I attended the play. I imagine that she has her own Whitney story to tell as well!