By Tim Hipps
FMWRC Public Affairs

FORT BELVOIR, Va. - The 2008 edition of the U.S. Army Soldier Show is headed in a new direction - in more ways than one.

Tim Higdon will take the director's chair from fellow Soldier Show alum Victor Hurtado, who has directed the Army Entertainment Division's marquee production for the past seven years. The show will feature a more militaristic format and employ an unprecedented number of dancers.

The whole experience will resemble a battlefield environment.

"When the audience walks into the theater, we want them to feel like they're sitting in Baghdad watching Soldiers come off of work to perform for them - with a lot of field-environment-type stuff: camo nets, sandbags, pillboxes. The program is going to have a field-manual look. You're going to hear tanks and helicopters and convoys going by. Since we're not taking the show to Baghdad, we're bringing Baghdad to the show.

"Everything from the printed program to the opening number, you're just going to get the sense that you're there with Soldiers and they're taking some time off to entertain. We're just driving home, from the opening to the finale, that they're Soldiers who are going to perform, then go back to being Soldiers."

The performance will continue to feature plenty of contemporary song and dance. Higdon also plans to employ five Soldier-dancers, another first for the show.

"We don't care if they can sing," he said. "We just want them to be able to dance, and dance really well, so we can bring a lot more of those elements into the production."

All told, the cast and crew likely will consist of 12 vocalists, five dancers and six technicians - ranging from stage and costume managers to audio and light technicians.

"A lot of experience isn't necessarily required - just a willingness to work and a willingness to be a part of a team that has a unique mission, and willing to do the time," Higdon said. "We hope to make the whole thing very high-tempo and high-energy, with a lot of entertainment that people can get into and have a good time with."

The change in directors might not be noticeable to those who appreciate "entertainment for the Soldier, by the Soldier," the working motto of Army Entertainment Division.

"It's a pretty seamless transition," Higdon said. "Victor Hurtado and I work very closely together and have for many years. Two-thousand-and-eight marks the 20th anniversary of when Pfc. Higdon was in the show as a performer and technician and that's when I met Victor Hurtado. We were both performers and roommates on that tour back in 1988.

"Even when he was directing, he and I would often sit down and collaborate," Higdon continued. "I give him ideas. He gives me ideas. So, yeah, I'm in the director's chair, but I don't think functionality-wise there's going to be any difference whatsoever.

"We have different styles of leadership, but for the most part we both were born and bred under the Soldier Show tradition. We know what it's all about and we know what its mission and goals are, so we're going to adhere to those like we always do and come up with a format for this year's show that is very entertaining and high-energy and just knocks peoples' socks off."

Hurtado is confident that Higdon will carry on the tradition established by Soldier Show founder Irving Berlin.

"Tim, for the last seven years, has been an unsung muse for me," Hurtado said. "He usually sneaks in during production and sits down and talks to me and he usually has some music or ideas that he shares. This is a good chance for him to be able to put those ideas to life. He has a brilliant technical mind, as well, so that will come into play. I have really high expectations for the visuals of the show, in addition to the content."

Hurtado, who will focus on recruiting and developing talent for AED programs, felt the timing was right for Higdon to move into the director's chair.

"I realized the Soldier Show wasn't my baby - it's the Soldiers' baby," Hurtado said. "And that baby has had different fathers, starting with Irving Berlin."

Hurtado was a Soldier Show performer from 1986-89 and served as assistant director from 1990-92. From the fall of 1992 through 2001, he attended college and worked with recording artists in Santa Barbara, Calif.

"I remember when the Soldier Show came to Fort Irwin and Sgt. Higdon was the production manager, in charge of the whole enchilada, and the show was fantastic," Hurtado recalled. "The 1993 show was just magical, and here he was running things after he got back from the first Gulf War, where he was a tanker. He was just a regular ol' E-5 and running things. So all of that's been in the back of my mind.

"On one particular evening when I was really, really tired during production this year, I thought: 'I'm going to talk to Tim about taking the reins because he knows how and because he can.' And he readily accepted. ... It was 100 percent viable for him to take over."

Live auditions for the 2008 U.S. Army Soldier Show, which will tour Europe and installations across the United States, are set for mid-February. The show will hit the stage in late April.

December 28 is the deadline for Soldier-performers or technicians to apply for an audition for the 2008 Soldier Show. Instructions are available on the Internet at by clicking on Recreation & Leisure, Entertainment and U.S. Army Soldier Show.