Lens on Lennon Herald Sun Friday 1st March 2002 By: ALISON BARCLAY
Will the Big Onion go down well in the Big Apple? ALISON BARCLAY reports.
By this time next year, John Waters may be Broadway bound. But whoa! Congratulations aren't quite in order just yet. Eager though he is to go with his popular tribute to John Lennon, Looking Through a Glass Onion, Waters is wary of reports that a US tour is ready to roll. Like the onion of the title, such a feat has many layers of fine and fragile paperwork.
``The fact is we are in the middle of delicate negotiations and nothing is signed or sealed,'' Waters says. ``But I would love to do the show in America because I feel American audiences will love it. John Lennon became an honorary American, really, in the last 10 years of his life, by moving to New York City and wanting to have a New York identity, because Yoko Ono was from New York.
So,'' he grins, ``having fought the Nixon administration, which suspected him of all sorts of subterfuge, there he stayed. As I say in the show, `I got to be on first-name terms with all the FBI agents who followed me about. Every time I turned around I saw someone talking into his sleeve'. The Nixon administration was a particularly paranoid one.''
So, too, in a milder way, is the Ono administration. Yoko Ono, as the licensee of Lennon's music, wanted to be assured that Glass Onion will do her late husband's memory proud.
Glass Onion has had two well-received London seasons in 1993 and '94 and is midway through a 10-week Australian revival. Waters has been in and out of the show for 10 years, which means he has been playing Lennon for as long as Lennon was a solo artist. He is not perturbed his Australian profile has yet to reach the US. ``People in America don't confuse Australia with Austria any more. They're not surprised we speak English!''
Waters can speak many kinds of English -- the Estuary style of his native London, the Cockney of Fagin, whom he'll soon be playing in the musical Oliver!, even a melodious impersonation of his Yorkshire-born wife Zoe.
Lennon had the typical tones of a middle-class Liverpudlian, whom Waters mimics very well. In song he is remarkably like Lennon, but this is as far as he allows his impression of the legend to go.``If I tried to dress up and wear little glasses I would feel weird. I would feel very easily caught out,'' he says. ``Someone would say `You're not John Lennon!' ''
Glass Onion is a musical collage of Lennon's life, beginning and ending with his murder in 1980. What it can't show is how the myth of Lennon as folk hero has burgeoned since his death, embraced even by nations that shunned Beatlemania. Cuba, for example, reviled Lennon for decades but now has a statue to his glory in Havana.
Waters was 15 when the Fab Four burst on to the scene in 1963 and for his generation the passing of a Beatle is especially painful. He mourns George Harrison, whose death in November meant the loss of ``yet another piece of the jigsaw puzzle. George was just as witty as John was,'' Waters says. At a US press conference, a reporter demanded to know when the lads were going to get respectable haircuts. ``George said, `I had one yesterday as a matter of fact'. ``It is nice that he could stand there and have a laugh about it.''
Looking Through a Glass Onion, Palais Theatre, St Kilda, tomorrow. Tickets: $49.90. Bookings: 9537 2444 or 13 61 00.