Army Veteran Robert Sidney played an unusual role in the Allied efforts during World War II – he was a dancer and choreographer.
Army Veteran Robert “Bob” Sidney played a unique role in the Allied powers’ efforts during World War II – he was a dancer and choreographer. Sidney choreographed “This is the Army,” a musical that was performed by soldiers and for soldiers throughout the war.
Sidney knew from a young age that he wanted to be a dancer and began his career studying at a local dancing school. He made his stage debut in “The Good Earth,” a production put on by New York City’s Theatre Guild. After high school, he studied political science at New York University but spent much of his time with the Dramatic Society. In 1936, he made his Broadway debut in “On Your Toes.”
After being drafted to serve in the Army, Sidney was recruited to the Special Services Division, which was made up of entertainers. Songwriter Irving Berlin was recruited to write a musical for the military, and Sidney was chosen to choreograph it. Berlin’s musical, “This is the Army,” was meant to serve as a morale booster and fundraiser for the war.
The musical debuted on Broadway in 1942 with a racially integrated company made up entirely of enlisted soldiers. It was an immediate success, and plans were made for the show to tour the United States. Warner Bros. Entertainment soon made plans to turn the musical into a movie. Sidney choreographed this as well and worked directly with Ronald Reagan, who played the lead.
After the success of the U.S. tour, “This is the Army” was extended for a tour of the United Kingdom. Sidney and the rest of the company traveled to Liverpool by ship, where they then performed for civilians and soldiers alike.
At the end of the U.K. tour, no one was ready for “This is the Army” to end. Fortunately, General Eisenhower attended the show in London and proposed that the company should travel to perform on all fronts of the war. The idea was accepted and “This is the Army” traveled across the European and Pacific fronts until the end of the war.
In his memoir, Sidney jokes, “I guess it can be said that the Second World War helped launch my career immeasurably.” After leaving the Army at the rank of master sergeant, he worked as a choreographer with Columbia Pictures, choreographed several Broadway shows, and worked with a plethora of the greatest stars of his age.
Robert Sidney’s work with “This is the Army” boosted morale for thousands of troops throughout World War II. Sidney died in 2008. He was 98.
We honor his service.
Writer: Rachel Hoak
Editor: Christopher Wilson, Lutfia Khaleque
Fact Checkers: Latesha Thornhill, Michael Macias
Graphic Designer: Roni Ruadap