Call Answered: Conference Call with John R. Waters and Stewart D'Arrietta: Lennon: Through a Glass Onion
"Call Me Adam" chats with John R. Waters and Stewart D'Arrietta about their new show Lennon: Through a Glass Onion, part spoken word, part concert, and all heart, this show is a celebration of one of the most distinct voices of his generation: John Lennon. Lennon: Through a Glass Onion is currently playing at The Union Square Theatre (100 East 17th Street) in NYC through January 11 only! Click here for tickets!
1. Your show Lennon: Through a Glass Onion, is currently making it's New York debut at the Union Square Theatre. First conceived in 1992, you have played to sold-out houses around the world including Sydney's Opera House and London's West End. How did you guys first come to work together?
John R. Waters: Stewart and I were put together by a mutual friend to meet and discuss another project. This was in the mid-eighties. We've worked and written songs together on and off ever since; with our main focus on the times we reconvene to do another tour of Glass Onion.
Stewart D'Arrietta: John and I first worked together on a theatre piece in 1985 for the New Moon Theatre Company. We got on well and when John was offered a 3 week season at a 85 seater Pub theatre, he contacted me asking if I would like like to be involved on a Lennon piece, I said yes.
John R. Waters: We had refined the show for a tour beginning at the Sydney Opera House, and at the same time we joined forces with Producer Harley Medcalf, who made an approach to the estate regarding rights, and it was successful. Opportunities further opened up with the assistance of Richard Frankel here in NY, and the availability of the fabulous Union Square Theatre. Now we're here!
Stewart D'Arrietta: It was the meeting of Harley Medcalf last year that brought about the production here in New York at this time and then Yoko allowing us to perform the piece.
3. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing the show?
John R. Waters: I like what most of the audience tells me afterwards; that they were surprised and taken aback by the unique style of treatment of the material, and that they feel somehow closer to the man and his story.
Stewart D'Arrietta: We would like the audience to be moved as they leave in the sense that realizing the greatness of the man and the loss to our society with his killing.
John R. Waters: I was influenced by not just Lennon, but all the Brit-rock scene of the sixties. It was my time - I was in mid-teens to early adulthood in London in that decade. I had already loved rock-n-roll from the time I heard "All shook Up" at the age of ten. When I decided to write a show that brought all the aspects of my own career together - acting; singing; playing in bands and generally telling stories - the subject matter came very quickly to mind.
Stewart D'Arrietta: It was John’s idea to do a show about Lennon. Lennon's influence has been large in my life as I grew up with his music and his philosophy of peace.
5. How did you decide which John Lennon songs you wanted to include in Lennon: Through a Glass Onion? Were there ones you wanted to include that you didn't?
John R. Waters: It goes without saying that we can't do them all without having a show longer than War and Peace, so I used the most autobiographically interesting songs which provided a 'text' of their own. Plus a few that are just bloody good songs!
Stewart D'Arrietta: The songs that reflected his life journey as a lot of Lennon’s songs were written autobiographically. "In My Life" and "Don’t Let Me Down" are used as underscore but we would have liked to use them as songs sung but it was not to be.
John R. Waters: Well if I had ever got to sing a song with John Lennon, I don't think I would have cared much what we sang. "We're a Couple of Swells" in reggae, maybe?
Stewart D'Arrietta: "Come Together"
7. Has Yoko Ono come to the show or anyone from his estate? If so, what did they think of it?
John R. Waters: I am thrilled and gratified to have been licensed by the estate. Beyond that I believe is not my territory, really, but of course I'm very pleased that our treatment that has been approved.
Stewart D'Arrietta: No.
John R. Waters: Stewart and I know each other well enough to work 'instinctively' off each other, and that saves a lot of time! I think that Stewie's high level of motivation to get things done has been his biggest influence on me.
Stewart D'Arrietta: You always have to have a sense of humor in this business and hang on to the positive.
9. What's the best advice you've ever received?
John R. Waters: "Give up acting." It made me try harder.
Stewart D'Arrietta: What goes around, comes around.
10. If you could have a song written about your life, what are some key elements you would want to make sure the lyricist wrote into the song? For example, I've had two theme songs written for me...one for my past radio show and one for a live interview series I used to conduct. The key elements I wanted to make sure got written into each theme song was that I did entertainment interviews and then the lyricists wrote my theme songs around that idea.
John R. Waters: I wouldn't like anyone to write a song about me. Except maybe if it was one of my children who did it. And they could write all about how I was the greatest dad in the world. The best songwriting always contains an element of invention.
Stewart D'Arrietta: Any song written about me would have to have in it that I gave life my best shot and I didn’t die wondering.
11. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose?
John R. Waters: X-Ray vision. I sent off for those glasses advertised on the back of Superman comics. Imagine my disappointment when the girls I looked at still had all their clothes on.
Stewart D'Arrietta: To fly.
12. If you could be any original Life Saver flavor, which one would you be?
John R. Waters: Blackcurrant. Same goes for pastilles, gums etc etc. the black ones.
Stewart D'Arrietta: Lime.
14. How do you want to be remembered?
John R. Waters: Being remembered at all, is a good start! I think I'd be happy with that.
Stewart D'Arrietta: As a Cool Garden Gnome...now wouldn't that be cool!
John R. Waters is one of Australia's most recognized, respected and critically acclaimed actors and singers. Born in Britain, he has built and retained an audience in Australia across four decades of theatre, musicals, TV, film and music. Waters has performed in over 20 stage productions, 22 films and 43 TV series/telemovies. Some of his best known works are My Fair Lady, They're Playing Our Song, Oliver!, The Graduate, Jesus Christ Superstar, Breaker Morant, Weekend of Shadows, Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Rush, "All the Rivers Run," "City Homicide," "Singapore Sling," "All Saints," "Underbelly" and "Offspring."
Stewart D'Arrietta recently enjoyed a nine-month New York run of his Tom Waits show, Belly of a Drunken Piano. Last January, Stewart was the musical director for The White Album Concert by the Beatles, performing on stage at the world famous Sydney Opera House with 15 other high profile artists including Jon Stevens and Jack Jones. Other musical director/performer/composer credits include Cafe Brel, Reunion and Satango. Stewart has also composed and conducted soundtracks for features, short-form drama and documentaries including Whitsunday Ash, Sugar Inc., Blood Oath, Colour in the Creek and the Emmy Award-winning documentary Faces in the Mob.