Stewart D’Arrietta is perhaps the lesser known of the duo who brings us the brilliant Lennon Through a Glass Onion, but he is by no means a lesser talent.
Albeit he is no actor, D’Arrietta is the piano man, harmoniser and business side of the John Waters conceived show which began humbly at the Tilbury Hotel in Sydney, and still plays to packed houses 20 years on.
D’Arrietta says he learnt to play the piano from age 6, at boarding school in Campbelltown, taught by Sister Anthony. “She would rap me over the knuckles whenever my thumb appeared from under my palm”, he says.
At age 14 he joined a rock band called Picnic but when Whiter Shade of Pale was at the top of the charts in 1967, the band didn’t want to play it. “So I joined another band called Liquid 3, and then later a band called Nevada Smith.”
He went on to study Arts Law at university, with the band sustaining him by playing at parties and dances. After graduating, he decided law was not for him and he went into “rag trade”.
“At the age of 28, I decided to devote myself to music, but it was too late for me to be a pop star.”
D’Arrietta bought Any Sound studio with some backing and did a sound engineering course, while still plying his musical talents. Working with producer Mark Moffat, he was signed to Polygram and released his first solo album.
He then started a band called Big Storm which was signed to Warner Bros., but its first effort was panned by critics who called them ‘session musicians’. It was a dark time in the late ‘80s for D’Arrietta, after a family tragedy and the band falling apart.
So in December 1991, when Waters approached him to do the Lennon show it was the spark he needed. “We had worked together at a Queensland theatre group on a show called Imagine. The Tilbury Hotel offered us a month in their theatre restaurant, so over six weeks John wrote the script, I structured it, edited and put it together, and the rest, as they say, is history.”
This from a man who wasn’t a big fan of the earlier Beatle’s albums. “Sgt Pepper, the White Album, and Abbey Road were more interesting. I was more of a rhythm and blues man and loved The Rolling Stones.”
Of his partner in the show D’Arrietta says: “John takes on the soul of Lennon. In the 25 years we’ve worked together, I don’t think we’ve had a harsh word”.
He jokes he is “the unknown quantity’. “It would great to be a star, but I have no complaints, I’ve had a really good run with music and hope to continue.” He has a number of musicals productions to his name and is currently putting together one called Sherlock and Me. “Some might never see the light of day, but just sometimes it works.”