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1st Lt. Michelle Cendana auditions for The Soldier Show at Camp Red Cloud, South Korea.
1st Lt. Michelle Cendana auditions for The Soldier Show at Camp Red Cloud, South Korea. (Seth Robson / S&S)

CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — U.S. troops serving in South Korea are auditioning for The Soldier Show, which entertains crowds at U.S. military bases.

Twenty South Korea-based soldiers are trying to make the cut, according to John Antes, the Morale, Welfare and Recreation Area I entertainment director.

Of hundreds of soldiers who apply to join the show each year, just 50 make it to a live audition — and just 18 are selected as cast members, officials said. They go on to perform 60 times in five months at U.S. bases worldwide.

Soldiers traveled to Camp Red Cloud this month from bases throughout South Korea to have their performances recorded on video in hopes of earning a live audition, Antes said.

Four soldiers from the Camp Humphries-based 527th Military Intelligence Battalion auditioned Friday at the Camp Red Cloud Community Activity Center.

When 527th Headquarters Operations Company’s executive officer, 1st Lt. Michelle Cendana, 28, of Maui, Hawaii, walked on stage at the audition, Antes gave her some advice.

“You are walking like a farmer,” he said from the crowd.

So Cendana walked on again, with a more stereotypical feminine gait, before commencing a soulful singing performance — without the benefit of backup music.

“Here in Korea it is hard to get an instrumental background for most of the songs I know how to sing,” she said.

Another auditioning soldier, Spc. Tamika Manns, 26, of Rochester, N.Y., performed an energetic modern dance and a flag-waving routine in front of the video camera.

Manns said she does not get many chances to dance as part of her job maintaining electrical equipment. Instead she hums to herself as she works and dreams of dancing on stage.

“If you got electrocuted or dropped something on your foot you might dance,” she joked.

Another 527th soldier who auditioned Friday, Sgt. Mike Blakesley, 24, of Mount Holly, N.J., is a comedian.

His job with the Army involves listening to Morse code, he said. “You have to be insane to do it. You just listen to beeps all day,” explained Blakesley, who writes down anything funny that happens to him in a green notebook and tries out his routines on friends at the bar.

“People laughed when I told them I wanted to be a comedian … they are not laughing now,” goes one of his jokes.

Spc. Allison Carpenter, 24, of Altoona, Pa., has been twirling batons since she was 2. When she joined the military, her drill sergeants made her twirl her rifle, an order she had no problem following.

Carpenter twirled three burning batons at the same time for her Soldier Show audition.

“I twirled for Penn State [University]. Our schedule was just as hectic as the Army’s,” she said. “We were always up early in the morning and practiced for three hours before breakfast.”

The Soldier Show’s tour includes dates in Germany one year, South Korea the next. This series of auditions is to find talented soldiers from South Korea who can join the show for next year’s tour, when South Korea will be the overseas destination, Antes said.

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