It was a bittersweet fête at the Soho Grand last night as the Cinema Society teamed up with Alice + Olivia to screen Sparkle. The absence of Whitney Houston—leading lady, longtime friend of the film's producer Debra Martin Chase, and driving force behind bringing Sparkle to the screen—cast a conspicuous shadow. She never even got to see the finished product. But if the evening was a memorial of sorts, it was far from solemn. "We taught Whitney how to Dougie!" gushed Tika Sumpter, one of the three leads. "She came in while me, Jordin, and Carmen were doing the dance and she just said, 'Teach me!' "
Jordin Sparks, the American Idol winner, makes her acting debut as Sparkle, the film's eponymous main character. The similarity between "Sparks" and "Sparkle" was just one of the "spookily stars-aligning" things about making the film, co-star Carmen Ejogo told Style.com, pointing out how her own character's ups and downs mirror Houston's real-life struggles with fame. "People unsure of what Jordin can bring to the table will be surprised," continued Ejogo. "And people who can see the natural-born entertainer in Jordin get exactly what they expect." One star sets, and another rises.