Stewart Soldier Show leaves lasting legacy
October 8, 2009
<b> FORT STEWART, Ga. </B>- Once again, a Fort Stewart Soldier was among the cast of Soldiers presenting the 2009 U.S. Army Soldier Show to a near full house of appreciative onlookers, including Brig. Gen. Jeffrey E. Phillips, 3rd Infantry Division deputy commanding general-rear, at Newman Physical Fitness Center, Oct. 6.
This Soldier Show production of "Lights, Camera, Action" had previously packed the house at Hunter Army Airfield, June 13. It returned to the area to bring the Fort Stewart community to its feet and conclude its tour of the southeast.
Specialist Michele Walton, a multichannel transmission systems operator/maintainer assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 703rd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, working as floor manager for the Soldier Show tour, was responsible for setting the tone for the Soldiers. On her mark, the cast of 14 and crew of six Soldiers performed a 90-minute, nonstop, high-energy shower of music for a very vocal and appreciative audience.
"If you were to ask these entertainers - these Soldiers - what they thought was most important about their appearance (here) tonight and the time they are on stage and behind stage giving us entertainment, it's the fact that they are first and foremost Soldiers with us," Brig. Gen. Phillips said after the show. "They are Soldiers first - they volunteered their time to come out and do this for us all across our Army."
The show opened with Kirk Franklin's upbeat "Declaration [This is It!]," co-written by Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald, which addresses survival of the everyday trials and tribulations through a positive declaration of one's purpose in life.
About a third of the way into the show, the Soldiers performed Frankie Smith's 1981 funk song, "Double Dutch Bus," while playing the streets of Philadelphia-acclaimed jump rope game on stage. Raven-Symone covered the tune in 2008 and it was released to promote the film "College Road Trip." There was also a throw forward to modernized versions of more '80s hits, complete with choreography and costuming reminiscent of the "Solid Gold" television show.
For the finale, the troops combined "The Warrior's Anthem," by Michael Peterson, with the late Robert Humphreys' "Warrior's Creed," and put it to music.
The highlight of this night's production, however, came from a local Soldier.
At the end of his comments about the event Brig. Gen. Phillips introduced Sgt. Kevin Cherry, 3rd ID Band operations noncommissioned officer, as a "local Soldier with a special encore dedication."
Sgt. Cherry casually took the stage and immediately went into dedicating a tribute to the late Michael Jackson. Had it not been for the diversity of their looks, Sgt. Cherry could have been a Jackson double as he pulled off Jackson-moves and snaps before an applauding audience.
"I used Jackson's 'Thriller' and 'Beat it' to audition for my spot in the 2004 U.S. Army Soldier Show," Sgt. Cherry remembered. A repeat performance at Tuesday's show was not a problem for Sgt. Cherry but, "When I had to do my live audition for the show in 2004, I did Luther Vandross' 'Never too Much'. That was a challenge; however, I earned a spot with the show using my on choreography and moves." Sgt. Cherry worked as a vocalist and dancer during the 2004 tour of the Soldier Show.
"In case you think that its kind of a 'get-over' being an entertainer and not a (prescribed load list) clerk or (nuclear, biological and chemical) specialist and tech for awhile, they (the Soldier Show cast) spend 14-hour days for seven months, seven days a week doing this, and that's on top of the preparation it took to get here," Brig. Gen. Phillips said, speaking to the cheering fans. "So what they are doing is, I think, double duty and they are doing this for you."
Brigadier General Phillips contends that "Soldiers entertaining Soldiers has a history that go back as far as Armies go back... these Soldiers are part of a legacy."
He explained that the very first official Army Soldier Show occurred in July of 1918 when a Sgt. Irving Berlin, who himself was a composer, was asked to do a Soldier Show by a commander at Camp Upton, Long Island, N.Y., to raise about $35,000 for a community center at the camp.
Berlin wrote "Yip, Yip Yaphank," a military musical based on his life at the camp. The show was produced on Broadway, with Berlin's fellow Soldiers filling the cast. From this show came one of Berlin's most famous songs, "Oh, How I Hate to Get up in the Morning."
The New York Times review of the production proclaimed the show as better than some on Broadway and is especially significant because the cast was all Soldiers.
"We are still living the legacy of that event through the U.S. Army Soldier Show," Brig. Gen. Phillips said.