It would be an understatement to say Whitney Houston was there in spirit for the NYC screening of her last film, Sparkle, Tuesday night.
One audience member described the "very powerful" energy in the room as Houston's fans and costars reflected on the Grammy winner's legacy.
"Jordin Sparks . . . cried heavily during a scene where Whitney was yelling at her character," the witness tells Us Weekly. "She was consoled by those around her, including Russell Simmons."
Sparks, who stars as Sparkle in the film alongside Houston, wasn't the only celebrity guest touched by the intense experience of seeing the late vocalist on screen. (Houston died tragically in February at the age of 48 after drowning in her hotel bathtub.) Both Gabourey Sidibe and Adrienne Bailon wiped away tears as the closing credits rolled, the witness says. (Sparkle tells the story of a 1960s girl group, inspired by The Supremes, who take Motown by storm; Whitney Houston plays Jordin Sparks' mother.)
On their way into the screening, the "I Will Always Love You" singer's costars, Omari Hardwick and Tika Sumpter, opened up to Us about working with the beloved songstress.
"The first day of shooting we were at a blues spot and she was grilling me a little, and giving me some great advice," Hardwick shared. "[She was] trying to push me to the next level [and] she was also just such a funny girl."
Houston's incredible sense of humor is what will always stick with Sumpter, too.
"There's a scene where we're all at the dinner table and it was tense, but there were so many funny jokes in the scene and we were all cracking up, especially Whitney," the Princess and the Frog star revealed. "She really loved to laugh a lot . . . that scene in particular was hard to get through because we were laughing so hard. She was the funniest person on stage. I'll always remember her smile."