As the lights dimmed and the crowd hushed, I couldn’t help but feel a rush of nervousness, anticipation and excitement. As a first-term Airman, I had no idea what to expect from my first Tops in Blue performance.
I knew who they were and what they did, sure, but what the actual performance was like? No clue.
I had been to a musical before and it was fun – I enjoy musicals; you have actors, performers, singers and musicians putting out a symphony of audial and visual excitement all brought together by practiced choreography.
According to their mission statement posted on their website, Tops in Blue, serves as an expeditionary entertainment unit to provide quality entertainment from within Air Force resources for the Air Force family, with priority to Air Force personnel stationed worldwide at remote and deployed locations while simultaneously promoting community relations, supporting recruiting efforts and serving as ambassadors for the United States of America and the United States Air Force.
What does that mean? Basically, Tops in Blue are service members who dedicated their time, energy and efforts to make sure that they can bring entertainment and joy to Air Force service members and their families, especially to those who are deployed to locations far away from home.
So what can one expect from an actual performance?
For those of you who are curious just as I was, here’s what went down.
The performance launched with the Singing Sabers, a group of singers from the Spangdahlem community who use their vocal talents to support ceremonies, followed by a speech by none other than our very own wing commander, Col. Pete Bilodeau. With a microphone in hand, he started the show.
“They’re celebrating their 60th year of entertaining us,” said Bilodeau. “They started in ’53 and they’ve also done movies, television shows and they even did Super Bowl performances. They’ve got 39 active-duty members that are detailed for one year and nine months out of the year they are on permissive TDY to serve us … and that’s awesome.”
The lights dimmed, and the show, ladies and gentlemen, started with a bang.
My eyes were blitzed by a plethora of colors, lights, costumes, sets and various performances.
Even though the power went out not once, but twice during the performance, the troupe displayed hardcore professionalism and an undying dedication to their craft. Without the aid of electronic equipment during those periods of darkness and silence, Tops in Blue kept singing, even in acapella, because the show must go on.
The group performed covers of popular songs, such as “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, complete with performers dressed up like the minions from the film “Despicable Me 2” and the singer dressed up like Pharrell Williams, and “Applause” by Lady Gaga, with three performers dressed up in suits with “hamster heads”.
The performers also played classics like “Georgia on my Mind” by Ray Charles, “Walking in Memphis” by Mark Cohn and “My Girl” by Jackson 5.
The children loved it when the group performed “Tale as Old as Time” from the Disney film “Beauty and the Beast” and “Let It Go” from the Disney movie “Frozen” and the audience was held emotionally captive by the tear-jerking, awe-inspiring song “God Bless the U.S.A.” by Lee Greenwood.
Yeah, I know. But let me tell you, it was that good.
The show came to a swirling stop with a speech by one of the performers, U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jeremiah Barnes, a 56th Communications Squadron cyber systems operations journeyman assigned to Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., and native of Nashville, Tenn.
Standing on stage with the rest of his troupe behind him, he spoke before the grand finale of the show.
“From the Korean War to Vietnam, from Bosnia to Afghanistan, Tops in Blue has been there to provide quality entertainment for our brothers and sisters in arms,” said Barnes. “As we fight this global war on terrorism, Tops in Blue will continue to be where they are needed; when they are needed … we will be needed.”
Like any great performance, the show came to a halt, leaving me blinking in the fluorescent lights of reality wondering, “What have I been doing with my life all this time? Why haven’t I seen this sooner?”
Not only did they deliver quality entertainment like they said they would, they brought feelings of warmth, pride and honor. My chest swelled and my face flushed as I realized one truth that night: I am proud to be an American, defending my people, my country and our way of life.
Looking back, I’m glad I had the honor and privilege of not just covering the performance, but being able to witness their magic firsthand and tell their tale to you. My message? Tops in Blue isn’t just a group of performers who delight in musical numbers and acts; they are our unsung singing American heroes who bring morale, joy, warmth and pride to our service members all around the world, especially to those who are very far from home.
Would I see them again? Most definitely. Should you see one of their performances? Is that even a question?
Blog, video and photos by Airman 1st Class Timothy Kim