In 1978, the patriotic and rueful Billy Bishop Goes to War premiered in Canada to become one of the country's major theatrical exports.
On Nov. 16, creators John Gray and Eric Peterson return to Vancouver, the birthplace of the bittersweet and adventure-filled monologue with music. This time, the slightly revised show (with one new song and a new opening) retells the tale of Canadian World War I ace William Avery Bishop through the lens of middle-age.
Following a September-October run at the Canadian Stage Company in Toronto, the Vancouver Playhouse (co-producing with CSC and producer Chris Wootten) presents Gray and Peterson's Billy Bishop Goes to War with previews Nov. 16-18, opening Nov. 19. It continues through Dec. 12 in Vancouver. A tour produced by Wootten commences in March.
Peterson recreates the title role (and a dozen other parts) and Gray -- who wrote the folk-and-rag-tinged songs -- plays piano once again. The pair will tour the show through summer 1999 to various venues across the country.
The play originally ended with an older, wiser Billy giving a recruitment speech to World War II servicemen. The 1998 revised version now begins with that scene, using it as a frame to leap into Billy's reminiscences about the illusion and reality of The War to End All Wars. The original production premiered at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre in 1978, and played the Vancouver Playhouse in 1982. The play with music has been seen in more than 50 cities in Canada, the U.S. and Great Britain. A 1979-80 Broadway season staging folded quickly before resurfacing Off-Broadway in 1980-81.
Designers are Sue LePage (sets and costumes) and Kevin Lamotte (lighting). Les Stockley is the standby for Gray and Peterson.
The production played the Canadian Stage Company in Toronto Sept. 21 Oct. 31. The tour (produced by Wootten) includes stops at Manitoba Theatre (March 10-April 3, 1999), the Grand Theatre in London, ONT. (April 15- May 1, 1999) and the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, ONT. (May 5-22, 1999).
For Vancouver Playhouse ticket information, call (604) 873-3311.
-- By Kenneth Jones