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Stratford, Shaw star takes on Billy Bishop

As published in London Free Press, January 22, 2014

By Joe Belanger, The London Free Press

Acclaimed London actor Kyle Blair — a regular performer at the Stratford and Shaw festivals — will star here in one of the best Canadian musicals ever written.

Blair will play the lead role in the hit Billy Bishop Goes to War being staged by A Missing Link Theatre Co. at Grand Theatre’s McManus Studio and opening Feb. 25.

“We’re very excited to have Kyle working with us,” said artistic director Rick Kish. “This role is a tour de force for an actor. Kyle’s more than ready for the challenge. It’s a perfect role for him at a perfect time.”

After the show closes March 8, Blair is headed to Neptune Theatre in Halifax to play Bert in Mary Poppins.

Blair, who lives in Stratford, was born and raised in London, attending Lester B. Pearson school for the arts and Oakridge secondary, performed with several local companies, including Original Kids Theatre Co.

After graduating from University of Windsor and Stratford’s Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre Training, Blair spent a dozen seasons between Stratford and Shaw, performing in works by Shakespeare, Noel Coward, Oscar Wilde and others. He has performed across the region and country.

Billy Bishop Goes to War, was written by John MacLachlan Gray in collaboration with actor Eric Peterson and tells the story of the Canadian First World War ace fighter pilot.

“I’ve always thought it important to celebrate those who go away to work and grow as artists and then see them return home to their roots,” said Kish.

“Kyle is a London boy, born and raised. It’s really important to have an opportunity to celebrate those who have achieved great levels in their careers, especially in the arts. We’re honoured to be able to bring Kyle back home to this wonderful role and to share his gifts with London.”

The theatre company, headed by Kish, uses a combination of professionals and amateur actors and designers.

London’s Dean Harrison also stars as the piano player.

The show, described by Kish as “part musical, part comedy and part drama” will see Blair perform the lead and 17 other characters introduced during the show.

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