ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Army News Service, March 8, 2007) - The public is invited to attend live auditions for the 2007 U.S. Army Soldier Show March 11 at Fort Belvoir, Va.'s Wallace Theater.

The curtain will open at 1:30 p.m. for Soldiers vying for spots in the 90-minute theatrical concert production. Admission is free on a first-come, first-seated basis.

The Soldiers who earn a spot will participate in a six-month tour of entertaining military personnel and families on Army installations around the world.

The Soldiers are participating this week in a series of tests and auditions that will total as many as 100 points toward determining the cast, based on choreography, vocal range, ability to learn, professional attitude and teamwork.

"What it boils down to is they are judged on two things: ability and potential," said Soldier Show Director Victor Hurtado.

Sunday's live auditions will also count for as many as 100 points. The performers' scores from the week and the final auditions will be added together and divided by two to determine their final scores.

"A live audience actually helps the performers because this is their 5 to 7 minutes to shine," Hurtado said. "It always helps to have an audience for them to sing to. And I think it's good for the audience to take a look at them in the raw. It's kind of a cool thing to be able to witness an open audition and then to come in seven weeks later and see where they are - it's pretty phenomenal."

Donn Murphy, a former Army Entertainment Division performer and current president of the National Theatre in Washington, D.C., who formerly directed Georgetown University's theatre department, will be one of the judges Sunday.

Sgt. Maj. Mercy Diez, the first sergeant major of the U.S. Army Chorale at Fort Myer, Va., and a cast member of the 1990-1991 U.S. Army Soldier Show, also will judge the final round of auditions.

"We're so proud of her," said Hurtado, now in his seventh season of directing the Army Entertainment Division's marquee program.

"She was one of my kids when I was a kid," he added, referring to Diez's participation in the Soldier Show when Hurtado was much younger.

Other judges include: Joe Leavell, director of the Army's Performing Arts Festival; Andrea Williams, head of Tehillah Enterprises, a gospel music public-relations firm, and who formerly served as a project manager for the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, Inc., best known for the Grammy Awards; members of the Soldier Show staff; and several senior Army leaders' spouses.

"I'm really, really excited about the panel," Hurtado said. "It's great that we've got these accomplished alumni who have gone on to make a difference."

Speaking of Army Entertainment stars who are making a difference, 2006 Military Idol winner Spc. Vicki Golding will perform during Sunday's audition show.

In the meantime, Hurtado is still searching for qualified musicians who can play bass, guitar, drums or keyboards for the 2007 U.S. Army Soldier Show, which will open May 4 at Wallace Theater at 7:30 p.m.

"That's still very open," Hurtado said. "If musicians want to contact me, maybe someone locally can pop right over to play. We have not secured any instrumentalists. Some of the cast members play, but there's no guarantee that we're going to keep them, and we're going to have a live vibe to this year's show. It would really open it up if we have dedicated musicians."

Fort Belvoir will play host to a Solider Show matinee 2 p.m. May 6. A limited-seating, Army VIP performance is also scheduled for 7:30 p.m. May 5.

"The audiences have grown by 15,000 to 20,000 (per tour) since we started this," Hurtado said. "I'd like to think it's because of the Soldiers and the quality of the shows that they've done. I absolutely have to credit them with that."

Hurtado expects this cast to continue the time-honored tradition of "entertainment for the Soldier, by the Soldier."

"It's an exciting time, it really, really is," he said. "We've got some good potential talent. The show is going to be about the Soldiers. There's not going to be a lot of characterizations of playing drill sergeants and stuff. It's going to be about their performances and it's going to be strong, like the Army."

(Tim Hipps writes for the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command.)