What Rhymes with Cars and Girls is the title of the first solo album by You Am I frontman Tim Rogers, released back in 1999.
Sixteen years later, Rogers’ music and lyrics were coupled with the work of Australian playwright Aidan Fennessy, and the album was transformed for the stage into a critically-acclaimed Melbourne Theatre Company-backed contemporary musical.
This week, as part of a national tour, audiences in Western Sydney will have the chance to see What Rhymes with Cars and Girls come to life on stage at Parramatta’s Riverside Theatres, under the direction of Clare Watson and featuring the original cast and creative team. The piece features a three-piece band, led by Rogers himself as musical director, and stars Johnny Carr and Sophie Ross.
Speaking to Theatre People, Ross couldn’t be more excited to return to the stage with What Rhymes with Cars and Girls.
“I really love the show, I’m really proud of it,” she says. “I think everybody involved has put so much of themselves in it, and it’s really full of love and joy and creativity.”
The show tells the story of Tash and Johnno, two lovers brought together by a conjunction of the stars and a pizza delivery gone awry.
“Essentially, it’s a classic love story, in the sense that they come from fairly different worlds and that begins to be the thing that makes it hard for them to be together. But it’s interesting because their differences aren’t immediately apparent. What you come to learn about them is that … Tash, who I play, comes from a very wealthy middle-to-upper class family in Northern Sydney, and Johnno is from a working class family in Western Sydney.”
Ross says the play examines the class divide that exists in Australia and argues that the myth of classlessness is exactly that.
“That’s what drives the moments of conflict in the piece but, ultimately, it’s a love story with some really beautiful music and some goofball behaviour,” she adds.
Ross discusses what it is that’s ignited such a passion for this project.
“I think there’s a really wonderful alchemy or energy that exists with all the people that are in this room, which I don’t know that I’ve experienced ever before in a show,” she says. “The team itself is such a collaborative team that it means that every moment on the stage is playful and alive and open to vulnerability and possibility, which is really fun to be in, but also I think to be in the audience of, because it’s genuinely alive and quite different every night.
“We don’t change the words, but we can shift the way that we play things in quite an organic way, which is not always the case in a piece of theatre. Sometimes, it’s really dictated how it’s got to be.
“It’s an extraordinarily alive and open piece, and I find that really beautiful … I have never not wanted to do the show, I love every minute of it.”
Ross also heaps praise on her co-star.
“Working with Johnny Carr, who plays Johnno, is pure delight,” she says. “He’s such a brilliant actor and glorious human.”
Brett Sheehy, MTC artistic director, describes the fact of What Rhymes with Cars and Girls going on tour around the nation as attesting to Australia’s desire for contemporary, home-grown works.
“When you combine a feel-good love story, inspired by an iconic Australian album, with some of the country’s most charming creative talents, you’re bound to create a type of magic that captures the hearts of its audiences, as it did when it premiered in 2015,” says Sheehy.
“I have no doubt that it will delight audiences right around the country.”
WHAT RHYMES WITH CARS AND GIRLS – SEASON DETAILS
When: 8pm from 11th to 14th October; and 2pm on 14th October
Location: Riverside Theatres – Corner Church and Market Streets, Parramatta
Tickets: Adult $62, Concession $57, 30 & Under $48
Discounts available for Riverside Theatres’ Members
Transaction fees: phone $4.60, web $3.60 and counter $2.60
Bookings: riversideparramatta.com.au or (02) 8839 3399