Rent: The Musical opens in Brisbane

The Queensland Travel Guide acknowledges the Turrbal and Yuggera people, the Traditional Custodians of the land on which QPAC is situated. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging, and recognise their continued spiritual and cultural connections to Country. Always was, always will be, Aboriginal land.

The cult musical Rent commenced at QPAC’s Playhouse last week, with the production already captivating Brisbane audiences thanks to its incredible cast transporting theatregoers into a world where passion, friendship, and urban bohemia collide.

We were paying customers at Rent The Musical, so you can rest assured that our review is 100% unbiased.

This post may contain compensated links.  Please refer to our disclaimer here for more information.

The Show

This was my first time seeing the musical Rent, and despite wanting to see it forever, I actually had no idea what the show was about, nor was I prepared for the rollercoaster of emotions I was about to embark on.

Following a year in the lives of a close knit community of artists, Rent is set in the 1990s on the streets of New York City’s East Village. Essentially, the story is about friendship, love, and the struggles they face together and alone.

While the main storyline is about the group being forced out of their building, there’s plenty of time to take a raw, emotional look at all sorts of societal issues, including poverty, homelessness, drug addiction, sexuality, AIDS and even death.

The first half of the show is a bit of a whirlwind. The storyline is fast paced, with plenty of upbeat rock infused numbers scattered throughout the dialogue.

However, the atmosphere dramatically shifts as the second half unfolds, commencing with the musical’s renowned anthem, “Seasons of Love.” The narrative then delves into deeper emotional territory, marked by the cast’s compelling and gut-wrenching performances that were rewarded by one of the longest-standing ovations I’ve seen.

While there are plenty of toe tapping moments, side splitting laughs, don’t be surprised if you walk away feeling somewhat sombre and perhaps in need of a tissue or two.

Oh and a bit of a warning for others like me, who enjoy taking their children along to the theatre. The topics covered in Rent are heavy, and some scenes are rather raunchy (hello orgy scene, I’m looking at you), so do consider this before bringing along the kids.

The Cast

Unless you’re a dedicated fan of Australia’s “The Voice”, it’s unlikely you’ll know many of the cast of Rent. However, I doubt that will be the case for long, as the production boasts an ensemble cast of exceptional talent, with each member contributing their unique charisma and skill bringing the iconic musical to life.

While I found all the young cast to be incredible, there were a few standouts for me.

Firstly, Calista Nelmes, who plays Maureen, is absolutely outstanding in her 10-minute-long comic monologue about cows. While I’ll be the first to admit I had no idea what she was going on about, that’s absolutely beside the point, her performance was incredible and no doubt one that will see her getting cast for lead roles in the future. And the vocals on this woman! No wonder she was a finalist on The Voice.

My next special mention goes to Nick Afoa. While no stranger to musical theatre, I’ve since learned that Nick used to play rugby in New Zealand under 19s, which he had to give up due to injury. Perhaps a blessing disguise as this man was born to be in musical theatre. Previously playing the role of Simba in The Lion King and John in Miss Saigon, Nick’s vocals and acting are sublime. He has such a beautiful presence on stage, he’s just special to watch.

But despite my special mention of Calista and Nick – the rest of the cast are also brilliant! They bring a diversity of talents, ensuring a vibrant and engaging portrayal of the characters that populate the cult musical. The chemistry between characters is palpable, adding an authentic layer to the relationships unfolding on stage.

Also, special mention must go to the costume designer, Ella Butler. As a teenager growing up in the 90s era of grunge – the costumes certainly looked like they could have easily come from my younger self’s wardrobe.


Rent the Musical is playing at QPAC in Brisbane now until 11 February 2024.  Tickets range in price from $56 to $169.

Discounted are provided for groups of 4+.

We had front-row seats right in the middle of the row, which was perfect. But given the show is on in the Playhouse, you’re guaranteed a decent view pretty much from anywhere.

Click here to purchase tickets.

Accessible performances

QPAC offer Listentech and ListenRF assistive listening systems free of charge.  To ensure the appropriate system is available, notify them on 136 246.

For the hearing impaired, an Auslan-interpreted performance is on Saturday, 3 February 2024, at 2 pm.

There are also wheelchair accessible seating areas.  To book tickets for these areas, it is best to call 136 246 to discuss the best seating options. 


Parking is easy at QPAC thanks to the Performing Arts Car Park (P1), accessible via Stanley Place.  Parking spaces however can be limited, so often pre paid parking is your best option.  

Keep in mind though, that pre paid parking is $23.65, while the standard rate is only $17.60 

There are also other car parks within the Performing Arts area in (P2) and (P3).

Other parking just a short walk from QPAC is available at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre and South Bank Parklands.

Public Transport

If taking public transport to the show:

  • The nearest train station is South Brisbane Station, directly across the road from QPAC on Grey Street.
  • The nearest bus station is along Melbourne Street, just at the corner of Grey Street.
  • The nearest CityCat (ferry) is the South Bank stop – just a short walk along the river.

Pre Show Meal or Drink

The surrounding areas of South Bank, Stanley Street, Fish Lane and beyond offer fantastic dining options.  However, QPAC also has several venues to enjoy a meal or drink before or after Rent: The Musical.

Russell Street Wine Bar

Located on Level G, the Russell Street Wine Bar is only open prior to Playhouse performances. It is a casual venue serving charcuterie boards, cheese plates and a selection of tapas.


Bistro is a casual venue in an open air courtyard serving various Asian inspired meals.  It’s the perfect place to grab a quick bite to eat before the show.


The Lyrebird offers a fine dining experience serving Italian cuisine.  Also, before some matinee performances, Lyrebird offers a high tea for $25 or $30 per person, including a glass of bubbles.

Theatre Bars

Outside the theatre, you’ll find bars serving various drinks and snacks.  You can also pre order online cheese or antipasto plates to enjoy before or during interval.

The Lyric Theatre bars open 90 minutes before the commencement of the show.

Enjoy Rent: The Musical

Hopefully, you found this review on Rent: The Musical helpful.

Why not check out some of our other reviews of things to do around Brisbane, such as the Pink Flamingo, Cloudland Big Band Cabaret or Soak Bathhouse.

If you’re planning a trip to Brisbane, I highly recommend you check out our full guide to Brisbane, which provides links to everything you need to know to plan your trip.

I’d also recommend you join our free Queensland Travel Guide Facebook community, where you can ask all your questions and find even more great trip suggestions.

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