By Tim HippsAugust 6, 2012
SAN ANTONIO -- Active-duty Soldiers bring the emotional, mental, physical, spiritual and family pillars of military life to the stage in "Army Strong," the 2012 U.S. Army Soldier Show.
"Every section of the show has something to do with strength in one of those areas," production manager and producer Tim Higdon said.
The 90-minute musical production is designed to accentuate the strengths and resiliency of Soldiers and military Families through modern songs, current hits, vibrant costuming, exciting choreography and spectacular visuals.
"That is in line with the chief of staff's motto for this year, which is, 'The strength of our nation is our Army, the strength of our Army is our Soldiers, the strength of our Soldiers is our Families, and that's what makes us Army Strong,'" Higdon said. "So the show is designed to follow that theme, and to highlight the 'strength' aspect all the way through."
The Soldiers attempt to sing and dance their way into the audiences' hearts, minds and souls. "Entertainment for the Soldier, by the Soldier," is the working motto of the U.S. Army Soldier Show, which is designed to deliver a positive message to the troops.
"It's all about 'Army Strong, Hooah!' So we're moving out and doing that," Higdon said.
The 2012 edition unveils a state-of-the-art, high-resolution LED video wall, 13 feet tall by 28 feet wide, featuring photographs of Army life on a virtual backdrop revolving from scene to scene and song to song.
"It's … a very visual show, very current, very modern," Higdon said. "We're excited about that new aspect of the show. The incorporation of that LED technology … makes the show move forward with a very modern and relevant presentation."
Army Reserve Sgt. Melissa Neal, winner of the 2011 Operation Rising Star military singing contest, will make a taped appearance. The Soldier Show cast will join Neal's video backdrop to sing "Hallelujah," which she performed during Operation Rising Star finals week in San Antonio and later recorded at EMI Music's Capitol Records Studios in Hollywood.
As always, sections of the show are dedicated to legends of the entertainment industry, such as Etta James. Another blast into the past features a segment accentuating iconic military songs.
"Everything in the show really speaks to resiliency, being able to adapt and overcome," Higdon said. "Resiliency really is that mental part, being able to put things in a perspective which allows you to (continually move) forward, that you never come up against a challenge that you can't overcome."
"Putting the show together has gone from hard to simply difficult," said Hurtado, a 26-year Soldier Show veteran and 12-time director. "The show came from many, many briefings, and all of these things are always in the back of my mind.
"But the end result is Soldiers' lives are illustrated within the show in a really cool way," he said.
For example, strength is personified by Des'ree's "You Gotta Be." Lady Gaga's "Edge of Glory" is dedicated to the Soldier-athletes in the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program training for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, along with Soldiers who participate in All-Army Sports, post intramurals and daily physical fitness drills.
Whitney Houston's "One Moment in Time" honors the late songstress and significant events in U.S. Army history.
Lady Gaga scores again with "Marry the Night," which illustrates Soldiers' resilience, complete with a night-vision sequence.
The show features a lot of spoken words, much of which was written by the Soldiers, particularly Pfc. Christopher Roman of Fort Drum, N.Y., Pfc. Raymond McKnight Jr. of Fort Benning, Ga., and Spc. Kayonnia Crowder of Fort Carson, Colo.
Harmonicist Spc. Franz Fabricante of Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, is a master of beatboxing, a form of vocal percussion that primarily involves the art of producing drum beats, rhythm and musical sounds using his mouth, lips, tongue and voice.
"He's a great beatboxer," Hurtado said. "He can beatbox and play harmonica at the same time. … He's just a breath of fresh air."
The troops will perform in the local area as part of a five-month tour to perform at least 60 shows in at least 31 venues.
The 2012 U.S. Army Soldier Show will be presented Aug. 19 at 2 and 7 p.m. and Aug. 20 at 7 p.m., at the Buena Performing Arts Center, Sierra Vista.
Admission is free, on a first-come, first-served basis. It is not necessary to have a ticket.
For more information, call 533.3354 or 266.0254.