BILLY BISHOP GOES TO WAR
BY JOHN GRAY in collaboration with ERIC PETERSON
VIRGINIA STAGE COMPANY
Everybody loves a winner, especially an unlikely one. William Avery Bishop was both - a small town Canadian boy who became England’s most decorated flying ace in World War 1.
This play has been a winner too. In 1978, John Gray and William Peterson began performing their first version of the show in small town Canada. Before long, they were playing on Broadway, and then touring throughout Canada for several years. That’s when Virginia Stage Company mounted a successful production; so successful that they brought it back a few years later. Now, 18 years have passed, and here comes Billy again.
Billy Bishop Goes to War is based in fact, but it’s much more an entertainment than a docudrama. Through rambling narrative, songs, comic sketches, and a charming theatricality, Billy tells us his story. It’s the tale of an unlikely hero, an ironic portrait of war and colonialism, and a touching reminder of how war changes those who face it and survive.
“Ed Morgan directed, which automatically means two things…there’s a preliminary assumption that it will be worth seeing since everything else he’s directed at [Virginia Stage Company] has been excellent…[and] the play is not only a must-see for general audiences, but should be required viewing for theatre students, because it’s something of a master class in the director’s art. This is not to say that Morgan’s touch is obtrusive, for it is anything but that. Rather, it is perceptively elegant, though only if one actively seeks to distinguish it.”
– VEER Magazine
“There is that wonderful theatrical moment when we realize the airborne Billy is being pursued by six airborne German villains. They descend from the upper stage in an ominous way that makes us forget they are just toy planes. Such is the magic of theatre.”
– The Virginian Pilot
“As staged by Edward Morgan…the production soars as high as Bishop himself, avoiding the pitfalls that might render it stodgy and earthbound…Morgan’s production is so emotionally well-pitched that the musical’s inherent weaknesses become inconsequential.”
“Billy Bishop Goes to War…sends the audience up into the clouds on a hair-raising, thrilling journey…Arsenault is deftly directed by Edward Morgan…”
– Daily Press
“This richly theatrical, consistently entertaining, wonderful work of joy and pathos transports us into a wild blue yonder of dramatic perfection that we rarely get to see...Director Edward Morgan deserves a few medals himself for this exceptional event. He guides his cast with the eye of an expert, sensitive man of the theatre...“Billy Bishop” functions on many levels. It captures the hilarity and, more important, the horrors of war. It’s very special.”
– WHRO Radio
“What really distinguishes VSC’s new production of Billy Bishop, though is the addition of a third fellow on stage, accordionist Paul Lincoln. Credit that bright idea to...director Edward Morgan.”
– VEER Magazine feature
Music Director: Bob Stillman
Lights: Nelson Ruger
Costumes: Jeni Schaefer
Set: Terry Flint
Sound: Michael Boso