Playbill.com reached out to a handful of composers from the theatre community who were fortunate enough to have their work interpreted by Houston and her sterling vocals. The acclaimed performer died Feb. 11 at the age of 48 in Beverly Hills.
Frank Wildhorn, the Tony-nominated composer of Jekyll & Hyde, The Civil War and Bonnie & Clyde, penned the 1988 pop ballad "Where Do Broken Hearts Go?" featured on Houston's self-titled album "Whitney." The song debuted at #47 on the Billboard Charts and climbed to the No. 1 slot within nine weeks.
"Losing Whitney is an incredibly sad thing," Wildhorn said. "I can't tell you how important she was to me in my songwriting life. The truth is, it was the success of 'Where Do Broken Hearts Go?' that literally bought me the freedom and time to come to theatre. The late 80s was a very productive time for me writing and producing in the pop business. After the song was written and demo'd, I got a letter from Clive Davis and from Whitney saying they loved the song but that it needed a new bridge. I had run out of my demo budget money, so the only way to present it was to sit at the piano and play and sing it to them, which I did. A couple weeks later, I got another letter from Clive and Whitney saying they loved this second bridge, that they were going to go with it, and that, 'Frank, you should never sing your own songs!' She was such a beautiful artist and such a beautiful woman. She was wide-eyed and had an innocence about her. 'Where Do Broken Hearts Go' was her seventh #1 hit in a row, which I think is still a record... I remember tracking it in Billboard Magazine every week all the way up the charts til we got to #1... that was a beautiful day!"
Tony Award-winning composer Henry Kreiger's Motown musical Dreamgirls has been a staple in the repertoire of many pop and R&B singers. Houston never recorded any of the songs from Dreamgirls, but did perform Effie White's "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going" and "I Am Changing" at several live events.
"I never had the pleasure of working with Miss Houston directly but her rendition of 'I Am Telling You I'm Not Going' was revelatory in its pristine vocal performance, clear as a bell and without affectation," Kreiger said.
Tony-nominated Wicked, Pippin and Godspell composer Stephen Schwartz earned Academy Awards for his lyrics in the films "Pocahontas" and "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (with Alan Menken), as well as for music and lyrics to the 1998 animated musical "The Prince of Egypt," which garnered the Best Music, Original Song Oscar for "When You Believe." Houston and Mariah Carey performed a duet version of the song that was released on Houston's album "My Love Is Your Love" and was also featured during the film's closing credits.
"I was shocked and saddened to learn of Whitney's death," said Schwartz. "I shared only a brief time with her when she was recording her vocals for 'When You Believe,' but she was warm, gracious, charming, and completely professional, and of course her talent was enormous. To lose her so suddenly and at such a young age is very sad."