By Rob McIlvaineNovember 10, 2010
WASHINGTON (Nov. 7, 2010) -- When the "Soldier Show 27.0" opened at the Wallace Theater on Fort Belvoir, Va., the audience couldn't stay in their seats.
Six months later, not much has changed except the location.
The packed house at the historic downtown D.C. Warner Theatre resonated with singing, foot-stomping and dancing from on stage, in the aisles, in front of the stage and up in the balcony.
Since the theatre first opened in 1924, it has seen vaudeville, silent films, Cinerama, soul, jazz, punk, funk, a Rolling Stones show in 1978, and after renovation in 1992, a Frank Sinatra appearance.
Performance quality in the past 86 years - whether it has been theatrical, dance, a TV presentation, or the U.S. Army Show coming into town for its annual command performance - has continued unchanged.
The show's title this year refers to the personal computer revolution and the re-establishment of the modern Soldier Show in 1983, first founded by Irving Berlin during World War I, 27 years ago.
"Our Army is in a state of transformation as we use technological innovations here at home and on the battlefield," said Maj. Gen. Reuben D. Jones, commander of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command.
"We're adapting new technology, like social media, to help keep Soldiers connected to their Families and friends no matter where the mission takes them," Jones said.
The format of "instant messaging" is used on a large screen as a transition between the song and dance segments, which included tributes to Irving Berlin with his song "Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning," and the songs of Michael Jackson.
This latter tribute got the audience singing and moving with the music until a Soldier came out to interpret Michael's moonwalk. As if on cue, the audience rose as one with cheers, clapping and dancing at the tribute to this great entertainer.
Victor Hurtado, who created the show with the Soldiers who traveled from around the world for their six months of intensive training, voice-coaching, performing, and building and tearing down of sets, hadn't seen the show in four months because of his other duties.
"I was excited to see how the show has evolved because of some cast member and staging changes. But I wasn't surprised at how their professionalism and entertainment qualities had grown. They were incredible tonight," Hurtado said.
While Hurtado was producing music with his company, The Center for American Military Music Opportunities, Producer/Production Manager/Directorial duties were taken over by show collaborator Johnny Stewart.
Before the show opened, Maj. Gen. Jones presented awards to the Soldier Show's sponsors, the Army G-1's Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program and Comprehensive Soldier Fitness.
Army Under Secretary Dr. Joseph W. Westphal was also presented with an award for his continued and enthusiastic support.
"I've always wanted to get up on the stage of the Warner Theatre, so you will all be delighted to hear that I have a small song and dance number," Dr. Westphal told the audience with a twinkle in his eye.
"We have Soldiers here from all over the world who represent nearly every job the Army has to offer, and who have always benefitted from entertainment because it's how we can connect with our cultural and emotional heritage. This balance enables us to have the greatest Army in the world," Westphal said.
The musical and dance review not only gave a cross section of this heritage, it highlighted the talents of Army men and women, trained as team members in various jobs, who can leave their comfort zone and build a team of talented entertainers.
Although Maj. (Ret.) Paul Prevost has been retired from the Army for five years, he has never seen the Soldier Show. His Family - Peggy, his wife, and their three children, Eden, Tatum and Peyton - are all glad he started this new tradition.
"This was fun, Daddy, we want to come back again next year," Eden said.
"This show was incredible," Peggy said. "It's even more incredible that these men and women could be in harm's way this morning and then get out on this stage later in the day. I'm really impressed at how good they are," she said.
According to Jones, the Soldier Show is dedicated to all men and women in uniform, wherever they may be, who are working and fighting to preserve America's way of life.
(Rob McIlvaine writes for Family and MWR Command Public Affairs.)