U.S. Army Soldier Show Kicks Off Tour
May 3, 2007
By Tim Hipps
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Army News Service, May 3, 2007) - Cast and crew of the 2007 U.S. Army Soldier Show promise to lift the spirits of Soldiers and their Families when the six-month tour opens tomorrow evening at Fort Belvoir, Va.
"Hopefully the edges of the seats in the theaters are comfortable," said Victor Hurtado, Soldier Show artistic director. "Because that's where you're going to spend most of your time."
The Wallace Theater curtain will rise at 7:30 p.m. for the 90-minute theatrical concert production created "for the Soldier, by the Soldier," the working motto of the Army Entertainment Division. Fort Belvoir will also host a Soldier Show matinee at 2 p.m. Sunday, and a VIP performance is scheduled for Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
Mr. Hurtado is particularly excited about this year's show because live musicians replace much of the pre-recorded sounds of past performances to make the song-and-dance extravaganza feel more like a concert.
"It's going to change the show drastically," he said. "We did what we call a 'stumble through' the other night and took a look at the material, and we were really pleased that almost two-thirds of the show has a very live feel.
"Aside from the show feeling more live, the material has a lot of energy," Hurtado continued. "And the energy is derived from the 'less is more' feel of the show. We challenged the Soldiers this year, and they're stepping up to the plate. It's remarkable."
Many of the Soldier-performers will double as musicians, and as much as they cherish gaining priceless entertainment training, they hope even more to give back to fellow Soldiers and their Families, especially Families whose Soldiers are deployed.
"We hope to put smiles on their faces," said Staff Sgt. Anthony Sadler, a 23-year Army veteran stationed in Southfield, Mich. "We want to give them a chance to free their mind of all the hurts and all the loneliness they feel with their Soldiers being away. We want to give them something to lift up and let them clap a little bit or dance a little bit and smile and laugh."
"It means a lot just to provide the morale and welfare for the Soldiers," added Spc. Cory Todd of Fort Hood, Texas, who won several talent shows while deployed in Iraq and was urged by his commander to audition for the Soldier Show.
"While their loved ones are away, we provide some entertainment for them just to feel at peace. That hour or two can make the difference, and it means a lot to me and the rest of my comrades," he said.
"It's not about us," said Staff Sgt. Laura Snyder, an active-duty Reservist from North Liberty, Iowa. "It's about the Families and the other Soldiers who we're performing for. To be able to give to them is just a blessing."
The Soldier Show stage set resembles a cross between a blues club and a garage, giving the show a 21st century grunge appearance, complete with a piano and congas.
"The set actually has a very retro look," Mr. Hurtado said. "The performance is set in like an old theatre, so wherever we go it's going to be turned into a house of blues-looking kind of place, which sets us up for a live deal. We want to rock. We want to have that energy, and I think this will do it."
With only 14 performers, the least amount Mr. Hurtado has taken on tour in his seven years of directing the show, he feels confident about the new format.
"I really have high hopes for this show," he said. "This is a very eclectic and talented group. It's interesting that some of their skills almost fit to a T exactly what we're trying to accomplish - a lot of them actually play rhythm guitar, piano or saxophone or banjo or drums or xylophone."
First Lt. Eric Young of Fort Sill, Okla., is a guitarist. Spc. Dave Boholst, a 2006 Military Idol contestant from Fort Polk, La., plays bass guitar. First Lt. Mary Daugherty of Fort Bragg, N.C., plays the piano, as does Staff Sgt. Jason Hanna of Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Spc. Phillip Harris, a hip-hop rap artist from Fort Gordon, Ga., will man the congas and Staff Sgt. Walter Washington of Korea plays the saxophone.
"A live rhythm section is going to bring a different kind of energy and really change the feel of the show," Mr. Hurtado said. "When you have a live person behind one more element of the show, it's going to give it that much more energy. When the vocalists know they have these musicians putting that power behind them, they're going to come out swinging."
The Soldier-performers are eager to start their tour.
"The past couple of weeks we've been practicing, drilling and everything, so it starts getting old," recalled Spec.Todd after a performance last week on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., when the show performed several songs for "America Sings!" an organization that inspires children to get involved in the arts.
"But once you come out here and do it for the crowd, then you realize it's all worth it. Every minute and every second spent in the theatre - sometimes 14 or 15 hours a day - it's all worth it," he said. "This is what it's all about - performing - doing what you love to do. "We're going to make a lot of people proud and we're going to make a lot of Families feel right at home."
(Tim Hipps serves with Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command Public Affairs.)