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New Drag Show Is As Close to Whitney As You Can Get

Joseph Myers, Staff Writer

Ever wish that you could bring back one of the world’s favorite performers, who passed away far too soon? In “Classic Whitney: Alive,” triple-threat Kevin Smith Kirkwood (of “Kinky Boots” fame) makes this far-fetched dream possible, channeling Whitney Houston for a spectacular evening of song, dance and drag.

The premise of this one-person show states that Kirkwood is the vessel for Whitney to inhabit as she comes down from Heaven, but the truth is that Kevin Smith Kirkwood is Whitney Houston. Everything from his look to his singing to his banter with the audience is pure Whitney. Kirkwood made a grand entrance appearing onstage in Whitney’s famous track suit that she wore to the 1991 Super Bowl, gave a rousing performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” then ripped away the track suit to reveal an evening gown. From the top of the show, the performance was high-energy, with hits like “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and “How Will I Know,” and then contrasting them with the power-ballad “Saving All My Love.”

It was incredibly clear that Kirkwood did thorough research on Whitney’s performances. Every movement, mannerism and voice affectation was spot-on. He studied the audience banter of Whitney’s past shows to create a script that recreates with pinpoint accuracy that same type of interaction in “Classic Whitney: Alive!” He even brought several guests onstage to recreate moments with people in Houston’s life, such as her mother Sissy Houston and Bobby Brown. The script was thoughtful and discussed Whitney’s faith in God, her love for the people in her life and what each song meant to her.

To say that Kevin Smith Kirkwood dazzled as Whitney Houston would be an understatement — it was impossible to take your eyes off of him. Even if you are a novice Whitney fan who may not know every song or reference made, Kirkwood is so charming and enchanting that it does not matter. There’s a certain charisma that Kirkwood possesses that straddles the line between himself and Whitney that charms the audience as both performers. When Kirkwood performed “I Will Always Love You,” there was not a person in the theater who was not on their feet; Kirkwood breathed so much life into this classic favorite while staying true to how Whitney performed it, creating an exhilarating and moving performance.

“Classic Whitney: Alive!” is a night of entertainment that will blow you away, whether you are a devoted Whitney fan or know little about Ms. Houston. Kevin Smith Kirkwood’s energy, talent and charm are the perfect combination to create an evening of mind-blowing entertainment.

“Classic Whitney: Alive!” plays periodically at Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St. Future dates can be found on KevinSmithKirkwood.com.

Email Joseph Myers at theater@nyunews.com.

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New Drag Show Is As Close to Whitney As You Can Get