Few entertainers can claim a 16-week Off Broadway success, let alone that “Yoko was incredibly gracious to us”.
But that’s exactly what John Waters and Stewart D’Arrietta achieved when the rebranded their show Looking Through a Glass Onion and took it to the Union Square Theatre, New York.
We might not think our Glasshouse could possibly compete, but Waters says it’s “beautiful” and is one of his favourite venues.
If you have seen the part concert, part biography show before, he says there are no changes to the show itself.
“There were a few minor changes that had to be made due to the copyright licence with Lennon’s estate. They also thought Lennon should be in the title, so we changed it to Lennon: Through a Glass Onion. And I had to think through some of the language to make it easier for New York audiences to understand.”
Waters says it was special being in New York. “There’s nowhere else in the world that Lennon is more revered than in New York. We didn’t have any merch to sell, but we made a point of going back out to talk with audience members. A lot said they expected a tribute but were pleasantly surprised.”
The AFI award winner says some people asked why he didn’t include Cold Turkey in the show. “It’s not that we didn’t want to touch on his dalliance with heroin. He was a naughty boy. He wanted to try it, to earn his stripes as a left of centre artiste, and wouldn’t have had street cred if he didn’t. But we want an exaggeration of what he did.”
Singer pianist D’Arrietta and Waters first toured the show together in 1992. New York is certainly a long way from the small stage they performed on at the show’s Tilbury Hotel debut. “I didn’t realise what I was doing when I put it together.
“For a performance piece it was well received,” he says of the Off Broadway run. He also admits it was not exactly a financial success. “But it’s a great city for live theatre. To be nominated for an award was extremely satisfying.”
The show features 32 songs, not all in their entirety. “The lighting is very moody, and people can sit back and listen to the lyrics. I talk as John, and we sing in an unplugged way.”
Waters says the performance “plumbs the depths of our internal energy”, and is very physical for Stewart over the hour and 20 minutes.
Audiences tend to be a blend of old and young. “It’s not the music of their [young] generation, but what we do up there goes a long way to explain why, with the world going through such a huge sociological change, the music of Lennon and McCartney expressed it really well.
“It means more to us [Baby Boomers], because it is the soundtrack to our lives. The music and lyrics were politically involving. But it’s great to see more young ones coming along.”