If you are a fan of Australian musician Tim Rogers, front man of the ’90s band You Am I, you will love the latest offering from the Melbourne Theatre Company. Even if you have never heard the album, What Rhymes with Cars and Girls, the story around the lyrics, created by playwright Aidan Fennessy will draw you in.
Described by Fennessy as a musical, the production incorporates every song from the 1999 album to tell a uniquely contemporary Australian love story – tumultuous, passionate and crossing the class divide – “Fords and Holdens mate, it’s never gonna work”.
Rogers wrote the album, having just moved to Melbourne from Sydney, keen to return to a simpler performance style, consisting solely of musician and guitar. The freedom of that solo image enabled him to create looser rhythms and lyrics that were not so strict. He never expected anyone other than himself to sing these complex rhythms.
It is the poetry and power of those lyrics that attracted Fennessy to the album.
“The lyrics are strongly vernacular, which I like as a writer. And the way Tim writes is dramatic,” Fennessy told MTC writer Paul Galloway.
There are a few firsts for this production. Commissioned by the MTC, What Rhymes with Cars and Girls is enjoying its world premiere in Melbourne, directed by first-time mainstage director at MTC, Clare Watson (an alumnus of the inaugural Women Directors’ Program 2014) with Tim Rogers leading the small band on stage.
However, it is the energy and passion of the cast Johnny Carr (Johnno) and Sophie Ross (Tash) that ensures the success of the poetic interplay between lyrics and dialogue.
While this is not Mamma Mia! The Musical, there are similarities to be drawn.
Aidan Fennessy has taken one creative form (Rogers’ album) and recast it into a human drama entirely separate from Rogers’ original intent, giving it new life in another form (narrative musical).
Johnno is a 28-year-old man working in a dead end job, caring for his disabled father, who believes life holds nothing for him to look forward to, “with everything I never was with nothing else to say”.
That is, until he meets Tash, a singer who is penniless, starving, and living in a place not fit for a rat. Watson believes the way Tim Rogers’ lyrics marry poetry and the mundane speak strongly to an Australian audience. What Rhymes with Cars and Girls is a universal story of love – rocky, messy, complex – but in the end optimistic. Love can conquer all.
What Rhymes with Cars and Girls
by Aidan Fennessy. Music and lyrics by Tim Rogers
Fairfax Studio Melbourne until 28 March 2015