INTERVIEW: LENNON THROUGH A GLASS ONION MAKES ITS ADELAIDE FRINGE DEBUT

Lennon Through a Glass Onion, the overwhelmingly popular brainchild of dynamic duo John Waters and Stewart D’Arrietta is coming to Adelaide Fringe.

Featuring 31 iconic hits including Lennon solo works such as ‘Imagine’, ‘Woman’, ‘Working Class Hero’ and ‘Jealous Guy’ along with Lennon’s collaborations with Paul McCartney, including ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, ‘Revolution’, and ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’, the show has enjoyed success both at home and abroad.

And while the show has been running on and off for almost 30 years, singer and co-creator John Waters says Lennon Through a Glass Onion has stayed true to its original concept.

“Both Stewart and I have aged and matured along with the show, but in essence, it’s not very different to the very first time we performed it in 1992. But after our first two years, it wasn’t for another seven years or so until we did the show again, and then we did a couple of years touring and when we’ve come back to the show, we’ve always thought we might just tweak it a bit here and add a little bit there,” he says.

“So it has grown and it’s slightly changed. But I think it was one of those things that we got lucky or, I don’t know if it’s luck or good judgement, but we’ve sort of got it right with the format and the way we chose to go about it. So it had a few tweaks that were mainly a lot to do with the marketing for the New York season and the American audience there.”

Speaking of the American audience, John says the opportunity to perform the show where Lennon spent the last part of his life was a great experience.

“New York City is an amazing place, particularly where John Lennon is concerned, because they absolutely loved him there. I think they loved Lennon more than the Liverpudlians, to be honest. Lennon quite often said, he was very fond of his hometown, however he chose New York and New York felt like home the moment he set foot on the sidewalk there. New Yorkers love that about him. And I guess they might feel a little bit of angst and guilt over the fact that he was shot dead on their own streets,” he says.

John Waters is well known for his accomplished acting career, but he enjoys getting back to his music side whenever he can.

“I started life as a singer and a musician in bands, and from my mid-teens right through to my early 20s that’s mainly what I did for a living. I joined the cast of Hair when I first arrived in Australia from London, and I joined as a singer but it involved acting on stage and an agent said that I had a bit of a talent in that regard and I should try some acting work. So I went back to England and when I returned to Australia, (because I thought, in the ’70s, Australia was a cut above London as a place to live and work) I went to see this agent, got acting work, and I stayed close to music in a lot of the stage work that I did. But I did do a lot of film and television,” he says.

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“I wanted to do a show that really kept me working as a singer and a musician, and add to that what I’d learnt about being an actor and holding an audience’s attention on stage. I searched around in my head for material that I could do and John Lennon sprang to mind. He had great songs, great music and fantastic autobiographical lyrics that almost told a story on their own. And then I wove a monologue around that, which was Lennon’s thoughts as he lay dying on the sidewalk of 72nd Street in New York City. There we have Lennon Through a Glass Onion.

The show was a huge success, which filled entire rooms and now, 27 years after the first production, John and Stewart will take the stage at Grand Central Showroom at Adelaide Fringe.

“Our plans were to do it for three weeks at the Tilbury Hotel in Woolloomolloo, Sydney, because that was the gig that we’d been offered. I knew the guys there and they said, ‘Have you got anything? Would you like to do some music, cabaret or whatever?’ and I said, ‘Well, I have been nutting around this idea inside my head and it’s not exactly a cabaret as you might know it.’ And I described it loosely to them what my Lennon ideas were and they said, ‘Sounds great. Do it at the Tilbury Hotel’,” John says.

“So I had about six weeks to finish it, learn it, get together with Stewart, do all the music, and we put it on within a few days. We had a great word-of-mouth, and people were hanging from the rafters. You can only fit about 85 people into the room at the Tilbury Hotel and we had it chock-a-block for three weeks and we knew that we had something that was worth taking on theatrical tours of bigger rooms.

“[The GC Showroom] is an ideal size for us. We have actually played this show in the Regal Theatre in Melbourne to 2000 people and that was quite an experience. But the show in its essence is a small-theatre show and that’s where it works best. 500 to 600 people is great. It’s the size of most of the auditoriums you find around Australian country towns and in the civic centres and the local arts centres – it’s perfect for us.”

The working relationship with Stewart has created some incredible music and art, and the duo are looking forward to their Adelaide Fringe debut as a pair.

“We met through fellow musicians,” John says. “I was looking for somebody to write songs with and somebody who was a great keyboard player and mutual friends got us together. The friendship sort of developed from there. We did actually do demos of songs, tried to get album deals with record companies. Even back then, in the 1980s or mid-to-late ’80s, most record companies were looking for teenage sensations, so we never really got anywhere with them. We did have a bunch of quite good songs that we wrote together though, which have since appeared on an album of my songs that I’ve got out. But then the Glass Onion opportunity came up and I was straight on the phone to Stewie and we’ve of course worked very, very closely together ever since.

“We worked on another show called Reunion as well, which we wrote together. It was probably the first of the jukebox shows which used a lot of already pre-existing rock songs. This was British rock of the ’60s with a little storyline woven around it. And we toured with that in the mid-’90s to kind of limited success. Nothing like Glass Onion, but it was another show that we devised and put on together.”

You can catch Lennon Through a Glass Onion at GC Showroom on February 16 and 17. Grab your tickets HERE.

By Libby Parker

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