FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas – Walking up on stage with shaky legs and sweaty palms, Spc. Aurielle Polynice’s journey to making the cut for the 2014 Soldier Show culminated in one moment as the bright lights peered down on her.
It was audition time, and it was her turn to shine.
“I started freaking out; I always freak out at first,” she said. “Then I go out on stage, and I let it all go.”
Polynice, an unmanned aircraft systems operator with Company F, 2nd Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, sang her way into becoming the sole Fort Hood Soldier in the U.S. Army Installation Management Command’s 2014 “Stand Strong” Soldier Show during a live audition at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Feb. 15.
Now, Polynice and her 21 fellow cast members are preparing for their first live show, set for April 18 at Fort Sam Houston, followed by 60 more performances at 37 garrisons across the U.S.
Polynice’s journey began three years ago, when she witnessed the 75-minute Broadway-style production for the first time.
“When I saw it in 2011, I thought it was really, really cool,” she said. “I wanted to see if I could make the cut. I wanted to represent my unit to the rest of the Army.”
Earning the chance to audition live, however, took years of patience.
“I did a pre-recorded video audition for 2011’s show, but was unable to put in my packet because of an upcoming deployment,” the Lawrenceville, Ga., native said. “I wasn't going to let that stop me from trying again in the future.”
She deployed to Afghanistan for a year in 2012 and returned with her sights still firmly set on becoming a member of the Soldier Show.
Soon after redeployment, Polynice sang Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” during 2012’s Operation Rising Star, a vocal competition that showcases the talent of Soldiers and their Family members, and made it to the top 10 before being voted off.
This only fueled her fire to becoming a better, more confident vocalist, she said.
“At the time, I was pretty excited just to make it to the top 10,” she said. “But soon after, I was already planning on trying out for the next one. I wanted to get better. I wanted to win.”
Now part of the Soldier Show, Polynice and fellow cast members have bonded during the weeks of preparation, she said.
“I’m excited to be on the road with the friends I've made here,” she said. “After only a week, we've become a family. The 12- to 15-hour days we spend practicing our vocals and choreography have helped us all grow strong together as performers and Soldiers.”
Sgt. Quentin Dorn, Army Entertainment’s production and stage manager, has closely watched the team come together during the past few weeks.
He has witnessed growth, he said, that has shown the team’s ability to potentially put on the best production to date.
“There’s something special about this group,” the Albuquerque, N.M., native said. “They've bonded extremely well together from the beginning and have fallen easily into their roles. It’s amazing how well they work together to shine as one.”
While mentoring and observing cast members, Dorn has had a first-hand look at Polynice’s improvements in both singing ability and confidence since her arrival at the installation, he said.
“Specialist Polynice is doing great,” he said. “She was a little shy when she first auditioned, but we've got her used to singing on stage. She now has the confidence needed to really shine.”
With the first live show around the corner, Polynice said she is looking forward to showcasing her skills, one note and dance move at a time.
“It’s been a blast so far,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot and am still learning every day. I look forward to performing for my fellow Soldiers, and I’m especially proud to represent my unit.”