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The Mountaineer Online

U.S. Army Soldier Show highlights strength, resiliency found in music through history

William Bradner

U.S. Army Installation Management Command

SAN ANTONIO – From a poem scratched by a prisoner on the back of an envelope during the War of 1812 to troops smartphoning home from Baghdad, the 2014 U.S. Army Soldier Show tells the enduring story of how Soldiers and their Families "Stand Strong."
Fort Drum Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, with the assistance of MAC Communications, will host the U.S. Army Soldier Show on Wednesday at Magrath Sports Complex Gym on post.
 The show will begin at 6 p.m., with doors opening one hour in advance. Seating will be on a first-come, first-served basis. The performance is free and open to the public.
The cast and crew of the show is made up entirely of active-duty and reserve Soldiers assigned to serve throughout the world, and Fort Drum is proud to count one of its own, Staff Sgt. Harrison Scurry, as a cast member.
This year’s show pays tribute to the 200th anniversary of Francis Scott Key's writing of "The Defence of Fort M'Henry," the poem that became our national anthem, by weaving the music and related imagery into the 80-minute production. However, the overarching message is one of strength and resiliency.
"The show tells the Army story – via music, song and dance – by showcasing those things that instill strength and character in our Soldiers and their Families, inspiring them to exemplify Army values and take care of themselves and each other," said Lt. Gen. David Halverson, commander of the U.S. Army Installation Management Command, the headquarters element for Army Entertainment and the Soldier Show.
The show weaves physical readiness training, the Sexual Harassment / Assault Response and Prevention Program, sponsorship, ceremonial drill, and even the loss of a Soldier and suicide prevention into the production.
"The entire show, artistically, is reinforcing Army messaging," said artistic director Victor Hurtado. "Social media and (mass) media (are) not the only way to deliver those messages – sometimes you need that human factor."
That human factor brings topics like the loss of a son and fiancé in combat and attempted suicide onto the stage through powerful vocal performances crafted by music director Joey Bebe, choral master Vicki Golding and sound designer Blair Ferrier.
The sets and lighting designed by Nicole Coppinger and Paul Turner and the intricate choreography by Amy Lynn Miles are designed to keep the audience engaged.
For example, in one scene, the lighting creates a stark, black and white feel to the set while Spc. Abighail Mary of Camp Hum-phreys, South Korea, and Pfc. Bryan McNeill of Fort Campbell, Ky., sing A Great Big World's "Say Something" as they literally catch Spc. Enjolee Williams, a Texas National Guard Soldier, as she tries to throw herself off the set.
"I had to make suicide accessible and cinematic and build that story and cause that angst," Hurtado said.
 "It looks like she's out of it, and she is – she's just not thinking clearly.
"We go from that to all the things that can help," Hurtado said. "Her friends catch her in time."
The show then brings the audience back up, as Williams and her friends on stage build from Kelly Clarkson's "People Like Us" to a crescendo with Yolanda Adams' "Still I Rise" that brought the audience to their feet during both opening weekend performances.
Spc. Diquan Sims of Fort Bragg then leads almost the entire cast in "Happy" by Pharrell Williams, restoring a sense of levity and joy to the stage.
There is a nod to younger children in the audience, as well, with a short scene based on the recent “Lego's” movie. A medley of nine songs ranging from "Over the Rainbow," which debuted at the start of World War II, to the 2001 Daryl Worley hit "Have You Forgotten?" offers something for everyone in the audience.
Sgt. Amy E. Hargis of Fort Bragg, N.C., caps off the show by treating the audience to verses of the "Defence of Fort M'Henry" that most have probably never heard before.
Then all 18 cast members take the stage to perform a choral version of the "Star-Spangled Banner" so rousing that those in the audience in uniform in attendance at the opening weekend had a hard time staying at the position of attention.
Williams said she wasn't surprised to see how emotionally invested the audience was during the opening weekend performances.
"I loved being in the 2011 show, but it was strictly entertainment," Williams said. "This year I feel like it's more connected to what the Army is all about.
"The entire show is about the Soldier, his Family at home, and the Army Family," she added. "It's real to the audience."
For more information about the Fort Drum performance of the 2014 U.S. Army Soldier Show, call 772-5370. (Sponsorship does not imply endorsement.)

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