A biographical show featuring the story and music of John Lennon took the stage in Toronto
Enthusiastic Beatles and John Lennon fans recently enjoyed an evening of storytelling and timeless music at Toronto’s Helen Bader Theatre. They flocked in droves, because the touring production of Lennon: Through a Glass Onion was in town.
Created by John Waters and Stewart D’Arrietta the “simple” production included two performers, a piano and a guitar. In addition to D’Arrietta tickling the ivories, Daniel Taylor summoned up the persona of John Lennon, assuming John’s voice, mannerisms and personality.
The first half of Lennon: Through a Glass Onion tells the story of John’s childhood, then moves forward through time as The Beatles become “more popular than Jesus”. It’s one thing to hear and read about John Lennon over and over again, but hearing these stories from John himself, via Daniel Taylor, they take on a new relevance and urgency.
Most Lennon fans would know that John didn’t know his mother or father. However, when Taylor tells the story, there’s am immediacy and an honesty to it. I suppose this is the appeal and timelessness of John Lennon’s work: most of us can relate to the humanity, the hurt.
The play alternates back and forth between John telling his life story and playing music. In all, 31 Beatles and John Lennon songs are featured.
As good as Taylor was, I felt like he brought the same energy and voice to every song, whether it was Nowhere Man, A Day in The Life or Revolution. This was more evident in the first half of the show, which was mostly Beatles songs. Maybe this was intentional, the message being that The Beatles were one-dimensional.
On the other hand, The Beatles story wasn’t sugar coated. “John” spoke of drug abuse, groupies, his rivalry with Paul McCartney and feeling alienated, alone, misunderstood and angry at times.
The second half of the Lennon: Through a Glass Onion was an examination of John’s life post-Beatles and his immense, enduring love of Yoko Ono. Perhaps it is because of the station in life I currently find myself in, but I found the second half of the show much more rewarding than the first.
Lots of people make lots of jokes about Yoko, but it seems clear to me that John and Yoko deeply loved each other and were soulmates. Taylor and D’Arrietta do a great job of communicating that bond, that love. I’ve been fortunate enough to experience the same. I guess that is why I quite enjoyed the second half.
On the night that I attended Lennon: Through a Glass Onion the audience gave a standing ovation. The show is touring Canada, so if you are eager to add some “real life experience” to your Beatles portfolio, definitely check it out.
One thing I didn’t like was hearing gunshots. We hear them early in the play, and then again near the end when the story reaches December 1980. That’s when John was gunned down by a madman outside his apartment in the Upper West Side of New York City.
At the time John and Yoko had a hit album called Double Fantasy. The double tragedy of John being assassinated is that he was very young (40) and quite possibly on the verge of creating the best work of his life after a “lost weekend”.
- Lennon: Through a Glass Onion played at the Helen Bader in Toronto Friday, October 28, 2016 & Saturday, October 29, 2016.