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Soldier Show rocks Stewart

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POSTED: October 11, 2010 4:14 p.m.
Photo by Sgt. Robert Schaffner/

U.S. Army Soldier Show participants perform a routine last week at Fort Stewart's Newman Fitness Center.

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The 2010 U.S. Army Soldier Show performers dazzled audiences Tuesday and Wednesday at Fort Stewart’s Newman Fitness Center. The show, themed “Soldier Show v.27.0,” recently celebrated its 27th year of entertaining soldiers and families. What the fans don’t see, however, are the countless hours and hard work that go into making the production a success.
In addition to preparing and practicing, crew members and performers set up and breakdown the show, program director John Stewart said.
Soldier show participants and performers typically begin their days at 5:45 a.m. for PT and breakfast. Set up begins at 8 a.m. when the soldiers unload two tractor trailers loaded with equipment. The setup, which includes stage assembly, lighting and sound, is usually complete around 1 p.m., but it sometimes can take until 3 p.m. Soldiers get a couple of hours of down time before rehearsals and the show. Performances run from 7-8:30 p.m. At 9 p.m., the breakdown begins and the trucks are loaded by 12:30 a.m.; when the show is on the road, cast and crew members usually work 18-hour days.
Rehearsing routines for the show is another story altogether. Starting every February, the soldiers log approximately 576 hours of rehearsal time before hitting the road in April for the first of 120-130 shows at 55 sites around the United States, Germany, the Netherlands and Korea, Stewart said.  
For some soldiers, the grind of show business is old hat, especially for the lead singer in “Oh How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning,” a comical skit that pays tribute to composer Irving Berlin, a former soldier and songwriter who penned many songs about Army life.
“I sang and danced professionally for 19 years, both stateside and abroad, before joining the Army 23 months ago,” said Pfc. Drake DeLucca, a multimedia illustrator assigned to Fort Bragg, N.C. “I’m kind of used to living out of a suitcase.”  
Like a deployment, breaking away for a family emergency can be difficult. “My wife and I had a baby Sept. 28, and I was able to go back home for seven days for the birth,” DeLucca said.
 Fortunately, soldiers plan ahead and learn to expect the unexpected.
“We all have understudies who know everybody’s jobs in every dance and song we perform,” said Pfc. Jeremy Gaynor, who is assigned to the 72nd Medical Detachment at Fort Campbell, Ky.   
Fort Stewart soldier Sgt. Kevin Cherry has had the good fortune to appear in the Soldier Show twice.
“I was also in the Soldier Show in (2004),” said Cherry, a 3rd Infantry Division band member whose Michael Jackson tribute received thunderous cheers and applause from the audience. “[This year,] after getting back from my deployment to Iraq, I went home for a week and a half and came back to the Soldier Show. Sacrificing time away from family to give back to the Army family can be difficult at times, but it is well worth it,” he said.
Married soldiers who perform in the show are able to do so thanks, in part, to their understanding and supportive spouses.
“As long as he loves it, I will support him no matter where he is,” said Cherry’s wife, Shun Cherry. “I try to make it to a lot of the shows. I am extremely proud of him.”
Although show participants are not in combat zones, they’re work is challenging and exhausting.
“This is sometimes harder than a deployment, excluding the danger factor,” said Sgt. 1st Class Earnest Baskin, Soldier Show non-commissioned officer in charge. “In Iraq, you get some down time … Here, there is no sitting around. Every three to four days we are moving to a different state or location.”  
The hours of hard work were evident in last week’s performances.
“I loved all of the show,” said Stewart Lester, who attended the show Tuesday on Fort Stewart. “This is the first time I have come to the show. I came with a friend and had a great time.”
Other audience member agreed.
“The show was fantastic, I brought my neighbors with me this year and they loved it,” said Kenyatta Reynold, who said she attends the show every year. “The Michael Jackson tribute was my favorite part.”
The Soldier Show will be staged at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 13, at the Hunter Army Airfield fitness center. For more information, call 912-767-5117 or go to www.armymwr.com/recleisure/entertainment/soldiershow/default.aspx.

 

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