Loosely based on Puccini’s opera, La Boheme, Rent follows a group of friends struggling to make it in New York’s East Village.
The Tony Award-winning show has just opened at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC), and features half a dozen recent graduates from the Queensland Conservatorium’s renowned Bachelor of Musical Theatre.
Ruby Clark graduated in 2014, and was cast in a production of Rent at the Brisbane Powerhouse several years ago. She is once again tackling the central role of Maureen – the show’s loud and proud diva.
“I think I am more nervous this time around,” she said.
“I wanted to be part of this show so badly and really wanted to have another crack at this role.
“It is such a high energy show, the music is great and I love the story.”
Ruby credits her time at the Queensland Conservatorium with preparing her for life in the industry.
“I’m so grateful I took the plunge and studied musical theatre – I can’t imagine doing anything else,” she said.
“My time at the Con was such a great learning curve – we did everything from mainstage musicals to cabaret, regional tours and festivals.”
Lauren Wood graduated from the Bachelor of Musical Theatre last year, and is part of the featured ensemble in Rent. After the show finishes its run, she will head to the UK to try her luck in London’s famed West End.
“Rent was the very first musical I did in Brisbane, and it’s the last one I’m doing before I head over to London, so I feel like I’ve come full circle” she said.
Lauren said this production was an ideal showcase for local performers, and pointed to the growing musical theatre scene in Brisbane.
“Since graduating, I’ve started to feel like I’m part of a wider community of Con kids – whether we’re cast in shows together like this, or sharing a flat interstate while we audition, or catching up on Facebook,” she said.
“It’s great to have that network, and I think that it has allowed more and more people to stay in Brisbane, and carve out a career here.
“Brisbane is home to so much great talent, and its great to see my fellow graduates starting their own profit-sharing companies and putting on productions around town.”
Josh Whitten, who graduated from the Bachelor of Musical Theatre last year, is also part of the featured ensemble.
“I am still pinching myself – it’s such a thrill to perform at QPAC, and the fact that I’m in a show with a bunch of friends from Uni makes it really special,” he said.
Rent follows a group of gay bohemians in New York during the AIDs epidemic of the 1980s, but despite being set in a specific time and place, Josh says the show has aged well.
“I think with the marriage equality bill being passed last year, this show is even more relevant than ever,” he said.
“It’s important to look back at where we’ve come from, and it’s amazing to see how society’s attitudes have changed over the past 30 years.
“And the show’s main themes – love and acceptance for who you are – are something everyone can identify with.”
Queensland Conservatorium Director Professor Scott Harrison said the production showcased the best of Queensland musical theatre talent.
“We’re seeing a burgeoning independent musical theatre scene in Brisbane, and I think that is largely because of the talent coming out of our musical theatre program,” he said.
“While most of the big musical theatre productions are still imports, it’s heartening to see the success of home-grown shows, like Ladies in Black and Muriel’s Wedding.
“Many of our graduates aren’t waiting for the phone to ring – they are mounting profit-share productions and creating their making their own work.”