In a statement, Base Hologram described the show as an “awe-inspiring live theatrical concert that will celebrate her amazing life, work and everlasting legacy”. It will feature Houston appearing as a 3D hologram, with recordings of her vocals backed by a live band. No dates or locations have been announced.
Pat Houston, the singer’s sister-in-law and president of her estate, said: “Whitney prided herself on her family and that included her fans. She adored her audiences and that’s why we know she would have loved this holographic theatrical concept.”
The show follows Base Hologram’s successful Roy Orbison hologram event, which toured the US and Europe in spring 2018; it is returning in October, pairing Orbison with a holographic Buddy Holly. The company also successfully staged a Maria Callas holographic tour in 2018. A rival company, Eyellusion, recently staged a well-received Frank Zappa hologram tour, and is about to launch one featuring a hologram of hard-rocker Ronnie James Dio, who died in 2010.
Base Hologram’s plans for a 2019 Amy Winehouse tour were postponed, after the company faced “unique challenges and sensitivities” in trying to replicate Winehouse in “the most celebratory and respectful way possible”.
The Houston estate has also partnered with Primary Wave Music Publishing to produce projects featuring the Houston name. The company hopes to put out an album featuring unreleased songs from her 1985 self-titled debut, and is in discussions about a Broadway musical and a Las Vegas show.
In 2012, Houston accidentally drowned in her bathtub; she had drugs including cocaine and Xanax in her system. A pair of recent documentaries, the authorised Whitney and Nick Broomfield’s Whitney: Can I Be Me, explored the singer’s troubled life. The film Whitney explored the accusation that she was sexually abused by her cousin Dee Dee Warwick as a child – a claim that Houston’s mother, Cissy Houston, denied, describing it as “rumour, innuendo and hearsay”.
In an interview with the New York Times, Pat Houston said: “Before [Whitney] passed, there was so much negativity around the name. It wasn’t about the music any more … It’s been quite emotional for the past seven years. But now it’s about being strategic.”
Lawrence Mestel of Primary Wave said that Houston’s name and likeness would be used sensitively: “We wouldn’t do a fast-food brand relationship.” The company has acquired the rights to other heritage artists, including Bob Marley, Smokey Robinson and Paul Anka. It is also planning a hologram tour of late Canadian pianist Glenn Gould with Eyellusion, despite Gould disliking live concerts.