Pre-show setup

Tops in Blue: It’s not just singing, dancing we do


Pre-show setup












By Airman 1st Class Jette Warnick

I had no idea what I’d be getting into when I joined Tops In Blue for their 2010 tour.

As a fairly new Airman in a family where the last of us to enlist joined when the draft was still in effect, I knew basically nothing about the military as a whole.  A few months after I arrived at my first duty station, Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, I noticed signs posted all over the base with a picture of a girl singing and the word, “Audition.”  A music major before I joined the Air Force, I couldn’t resist trying out.

After sending in a video audition and going to the worldwide competition in January, I was surprised and overjoyed when I made it into Tops In Blue.  At this point I’d seen the 2009 team perform and thought I knew what Tops In Blue was all about.

Staging, a three-month process, showed me the work and dedication that was needed to put this tour together.  Performers not only do a show, but are also the roadies.  Before each show, we unload 64,000 pounds of equipment from the trucks and then spend roughly four to five hours setting up the stage.  Each member of Tops In Blue has a specific job to do during this time.  For instance, my area of responsibility is audio, which has me running power cables and setting up speakers.

When the stage is fully set up, we sound-check, and the performers find their own little corner to get ready for the show.  For the females, this can be somewhat of an ordeal initially.  Makeup has to be flawless, and our hair has to be huge in order for the entire audience to see all of us clearly.  Eleven women in what is usually a fairly crowded space, with limited outlets for irons, can be an interesting time.  However, we have never had any trouble with teamwork and looking out for each other.  One way or another, everyone always gets show-ready.

Next is the performance, which is roughly about 1 hour and 45 minutes.  Tops In Blue is a high-energy show with lots of dancing and audience interaction.  We put our all into making our choreography precise and all of our movements big, so that the people sitting in the back of the audience can get just as good of a show as those in the front row.  It can feel like a workout a lot of the time, but for the most part it’s just as much fun as it looks.

After the show, we grab a bite to eat, start tearing down the stage, and load all the equipment back into the trucks.  This takes about another three hours.  We usually end up going home to the hotel around 2 a.m. to catch a few hours of sleep before waking up the next morning and traveling to the next city or base where we will be performing.

We just got done with four shows in a row where we traveled to a different state each morning for another show.  I don’t know how we did it, but the last night, when we were very sleep deprived, was our best show out of the four.

Being a part of Tops In Blue is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.  It is mentally and physically exhausting, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  I enjoy making people happy, and one of the purposes of this program is to improve morale for those men and women serving in the military and for their spouses and family that support them.  I like being able to impact so many people’s lives in such a positive way by doing something I love.

PHOTO: Members of the Air Force’s Premier Entertainment Showcase, Tops In Blue, set up a stage in preparation for the June 11, 2008, show at Soldier Field. (Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Steven L. Shepard)