With Stewart D’Arrietta
With the Music of John Lennon/Lennon & McCartney
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited
There have been a plethora of Beatles tributes on and off Broadway in the recent past but none honors the Beatles songbook better than “Lennon Through A Glass Onion” currently running at the Union Square Theatre. Conceived and Performed by John R. Waters, this complex and engaging musical focuses on the music of John Lennon through a “peeling back of the onion” of Lennon’s life and work and revealing how the two are inextricably reticulated.
Mr. Waters and Mr. D’Arrietta have performed “Lennon” around the world for the last two decades and now make their auspicious New York debut for a twenty week run in the East Village. Alluding to a John Lennon quote, these two remarkable musicians take Lennon’s life and music apart and reassemble it with the glue of their performances. While (as Lennon) telling stories about the early days of the Beatles, the fame and the cost of fame, the breakup of the group, and the relationship with Yoko Ono and their son, John Waters reimagines “Strawberry Fields Forever,” Norwegian Wood,” Nowhere Man,” “Julia,” “Hide Your Love Away,” “Working Class Hero,” “Imagine,” and twenty-four other iconic Lennon and Lennon/McCartney songs.
This reimagining happens through the almost uncanny combination of Mr. Waters’ voice and guitar and Mr. D’Arrietta’s voice and incandescent piano skills. There are times when the audience begins to search for the rest of the band and the backup singers. This duo is brilliant, one of a kind, and not to be missed. These musicians do far more than embody Lennon and his work. It is more as though John Lennon was looking over John Waters’ shoulder, whispering in his ear, “It’s OK, John, I’m here and you are doing just fine. And, by the way, who’s that amazing guy at the piano? And look at all those lonely people out there – let’s cheer them up!”
The scenic and lighting designs by Anthony “Bazz” Barrett provide an ethereal and resplendent setting for the magic that occurs on the Union Square Theatre stage between John Waters and Stewart D’Arrietta and the appreciative and often awe-struck audience. No director is credited for assembling this important show and one assumes the artists self-directed.
Once Mr. Waters and Mr. D’Arrietta hook the audience with their enormous musical talent, the audience is transported to a magical mystery tour of Lennon and Lennon-McCartney songs and stories Mr. Waters constructs from Lennon’s lyrics. There are times one is certain John Lennon is in the house, tapping on the shoulders of the audience saying, “I hope all of this helps you get through the night.”