In this Canadian classic, writers John Gray and Eric Peterson explore the life of Canadian fighter pilot William Avery Bishop and his accomplishments during WWI. The play humanizes the “hero” and examines Canada’s station within the colonial empire at that time. It displays all the youth, adventure and pathos of war and while the context might not exist for younger audiences to be able to make a real emotional connection, for them it’s still a historically interesting and extremely entertaining show.  Essentially, BBGTW is a solo act starring Ryan Beil (as Bishop) who does an outstanding job of carrying the entire piece without once having us jonesing for another voice on stage.  Yet Beil’s award winning performance does nothing to eclipse musical accompanist Zachary Gray’s contribution, whose vocal and instrumental work plays a vital role. I was even asked that night, “Would you call this a musical?” I answered no, but it’s very close. This is definitely a play, but it’s a play with a rich and colourful musical component. For me, BBGTW was outstanding. But it’s important for anyone who writes to qualify their perspective and while I usually leave personal background to my biography, this time I have a little bit more to add. Many people know that I dance. In fact, there was a time when I took dancing so seriously that it almost became a full time career for me. Unfortunately years of martial arts competition had taken a toll on my body and I was advised that my recurring injuries were incongruous with the life of a professional dancer. I was told to “think hard” about other options.... so, I did... and I joined the army.  I know, hard to believe, but it makes sense when you think about it: I was fit, disciplined, searching for a life less ordinary and all that. During my entrance physical the doctor told me that he had never seen eyes as sharp as mine. This led me to the battalion shooting team where I excelled, winning six gold medals and the individual all-round championship my first year at provincials (pic). Shooting took me to the states for a while to work at a facility running can-am-british “war games”, but I was sent home due to a bronchial infection that ultimately resulted in me missing my one real shot (no pun intended) at working overseas. Eventually I left the military, happy to have had the experience, and very happy to emerge from it unscathed. Now... anyone who sees BBGTW will recognize the obvious parallels I’ve drawn. But me relating to Bishop directly isn’t the point. The point is that I, along with anyone else who has either been in the military or has been emotionally close to a member of the armed forces, understand a soldier’s individual reality in a way that is lost on the general public. This play communicates that understanding to everyone, while entertaining us at the same time. That’s what makes it outstanding. We laugh with Bishop, we watch him challenge himself, and struggle, even with his success. We see him demoted from myth to man. But as that happens, through this play and through the audience seeing the soldier as a human being, Billy Bishop becomes more accomplished than his decorations could ever reflect.  All that and electric-guitar-driven fighter planes to boot? BBGTW is definitely a must see. Billy Bishop Goes to War is at The Belfry Theatre until August 14th. For more information visit