Dwight Bell was overwhelmed at first.
As both director and choreographer of New Venture Theatre's production, "Love, Whitney," he was tasked with telling the story of Whitney Houston's music through dance.
The show opens Oct. 19 in Southern University's Frank Hayden Hall Theatre, and its only words will be those sung by Houston. This is where Bell discovered being the director had its advantages.
"(Producer) Greg (Williams) gave me freedom in this show, and I chose the songs we would use," he says. "I listened to all of Whitney Houston's CDs and chose the songs I thought best reflected her career."
Bell still had to figure out how to bring the songs together in a story told through dance.
"And it all came together for me when I decided to tell the story of how Whitney's music tells the stories of everyday people — of us," he said.
The production became what New Venture is calling a "choreoplay."
Forty dancers ages 9 to 38 will perform in 90 minutes of Houston's songs. The dancers won't always be on stage at the same time, and not all of the songs will be Houston's hits.
"I have some people in the cast who are too young to know her music," Bell says. "I wanted to expose a different generation to her songs, so I chose songs that showed who she was."
At different points in the show, Houston will be portrayed by different dancers — Aleyria Griffins, Elise Patin, Kerrington Griffin, Krystal Gomez and Trinity Star Alexander.
"The first half of the show will be all remixes, and the second half will be the original recordings of Whitney Houston's songs," Bell says. "I choreographed dancers according to their dance levels and skills, and the remixes give us a chance to incorporate different dance styles."
The result is not only a celebration of Houston's music but the lives of the fans who listened to her.
A New Venture Theatre production
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 19-20, 3 p.m. Oct. 21.
WHERE: Frank Hayden Hall Theatre, F Street, Southern University.
TICKETS/INFO: $20; $15, students with valid ID and groups of 10 or more that purchase tickets in advance. (225) 588-7576 or NVTArts.org