Lovers of the stage have been treated to a rich showcase over the past 30 years.

It was the mid-1970s when the state cabinet recognised a need for a major performing arts centre in Brisbane. The location was to be the corner of Melbourne Street and Grey Street in Brisbane’s South Bank precinct and local architect Robin Gibson designed what we would come to know as the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC).

Officially opened by HRH The Duke of Kent in 1985, over the past 30 years QPAC has showcased the very best from Australia and around the world. Each year it welcomes around a million people to more than 1200 performances across its four theatres and outdoor spaces. Many arts workers made their first connection with the show business world at QPAC. For some it was their first job, as an usher or ticket seller, while others fondly recall seeing their first musical there. For me, I will never forget the pristine grandeur of its massive backstage areas when I first sang with the Lyric Opera of Queensland in 1988’s Aida.

The first musical

The first musical presented at QPAC was The Pirates of Penzance which opened 7 February 1985 and starred Simon Gallaher, Jon English, Marina Prior and June Bronhill. Next month Harvest Rain Theatre Company’s production of the same show (Gallaher directing this time and starring Andrew O’Keefe as the Pirate King) will be the sixth staging of this timeless Gilbert and Sullivan classic.

The biggest productions

The biggest domestic and international productions, in terms of popularity, audience size, and scale have been presented on the Lyric Theatre stage. These include CATS, Les Misérables, Mamma Mia, We Will Rock You, Jersey Boys, The Boy from Oz, The King and I, Mary Poppins and War Horse.

“What we deliver in partnership every day with the many talented artists and companies has become part of the fabric of this city,” says QPAC chief executive John Kotzas. “QPAC also takes on the roles of producer, investor and presenter.” This includes iconic events like QPAC’s signature Out of the Box festival. “As we reach our 30th anniversary we celebrate what the performing arts means to more than 20 million people who have attended an event at QPAC.”

Best-selling show musicals account for about 40 per cent of QPAC’s total attendance. Disney’s The Lion King, which closed last month, sold out its 18-week Lyric Theatre season, smashing their box office records to become the highest grossing show in the Centre’s history.

Longest run and highest attendance The Phantom of the Opera’s 23-week season in 1996-97 holds the record for the longest season and highest attendance. Back again and again Carmen and Romeo and Juliet have been variously portrayed through opera, ballet, theatre and modern dance, sometimes two genres of the same show within the one year such is their popularity. Another favourite is Swan Lake which has entranced audiences in 11 different productions by local, national and international companies. Blockbuster Broadway smash Wicked is currently in the second week of its return season by popular demand.

Create your own déjà vu and catch The Pirates of Penzance, back after 30 years but as fresh as ever!

Some of the big Australian names that have performed at QPAC

Geoffrey Rush
Melinda Schneider
Sigrid Thornton
Bille Brown
Diane Cilento
Anthony Warlow
Slim Dusty
Bernard Fanning
Nancye Hayes
Barry Humphries
Asher Keddie
Lisa McCune
Gary McDonald
Todd McKenney
Archie Roach

Some of the International stars that have performed at QPAC

Rudolf Nureyev
Julie Andrews
Tony Bennett
David Suchet
Whoopi Goldberg
Victor Borge
Ray Charles
Bryan Adams
Petula Clark
Elvis Costello
Felicity Kendal
Angela Lansbury
Cyndi Lauper
k.d. lang
Shirley MacLaine
Michael Parkinson
Lou Reed

What shows have you seen at QPAC and what were your favourites? Let us know in the comments below…

Win tickets to see The Pirates of Penzance and dine at Popolo! bmag and Harvest Rain have five double passes to see the show at QPAC on Thursday 19 March and then you can wine and dine at Popolo before the show. Click here to enter for your chance to win.

For more details, head to our event guide.