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Billy Bishop Goes to War was a musical drama, written by John Gray and Eric Peterson (music and lyrics by John Gray), describing the life of Billy Bishop -- Canadian World War I flying ace and legend.

Billy Bishop Goes to War premiered at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre in association with Tamahnous Theatre, November 3, 1978. John Gray directed and played the pianist/narrator and Eric Peterson played Billy Bishop (as well as a number of other characters). The play toured Canada, visiting virtually every major theatre and hit Broadway, opening at the Morosco Theatre May 29, 1980 and closing Jun 7, 1980 after seven previews and twelve performances. The musical has been revived upwards of 150 times, including a very well-received revival in 1998 by Canadian Stage starring the original cast). Regarding its success, Peterson said:

"Even though we have become this great globalized exporter of whatever, there is still a huge part of our psyche that's not very comfortable with that. We still long to hear someone say 'Moose Jaw'. It's simplistic, but it's there ... the need to be verified in your own cultural images. It's very strong and it's a very healthy instinct."1
Billy Bishop Goes to War has received the Governor General's Award, the Chalmers Award, and the Los Angeles Drama Critics Award.

Billy Bishop Goes to War was made into a movie by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 2000.


The Encyclopedia of Canadian Theatre:
Internet Broadway Database:
Northern Stars Magazine:

1 Eric Peterson, as quoted by Peg Hill. Eric Peterson: Simply Canadian. Northern Stars Magazine. 2001. At (http://www.northernstarsmag.com/peterson.html). May 26, 2002.

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