Audience members at Humber Theatre’s production of Life Underground earlier this month found themselves back in the 90’s. The original era of chokers, boy bands and tacky flavoured lip gloss, Life Underground is a fun and whimsical who-done-it play with a killer soundtrack and an even better cast (think Zoom meets Fresh Prince).
The show was devised and developed at Humber College by the graduating Performance and Production classes of 2017 under the guidance of mentors Clare Preuss, Richard Lee and Laid Macdonald.
At first, you didn’t really know what to expect with this show. Among the wide variety of characters, there’s an Amish couple, a scientist, a “lost boy” on a sugar rush, a fairy named Bunny, and a goat—all stuck together in a bunker. After the goat suspiciously dies, the play begins to unravel the mystery behind the killing of the goat. Who did it? And why?
Despite initial confusion, the opening song and matched choreography came with the energy of a Broadway musical, rather surprisingly, since the Humber Theatre program does not demand singing capability. With the audience laughing and singing along, visitors to the Theatre Centre BMO Incubator for Live Arts were clearly having a good time.
“Everybody took their characters and kind of made them their own,” says Ryan Breton, the student actor playing Josh Crombie in the show. “We didn’t have much time to put everything together. We liked the idea of the 90’s and we didn’t actually originally plan it to be a musical. It just kind of happened with the Backstreet Boy song and went from there.”
The Backstreet Boy moment is perhaps the most memorable of the show. In the midst of the classic girl-likes-boy-who-doesn’t-know-it storyline, boy crazy Destiny played by Jessica Bowmer begins to daydream a romance with her beloved Casey Malone. Immediately after the spotlight turns on and the audience hears those classic lyrics “You are my fire.” The boy-band choreography was reminiscent of old music videos, and spot on.
“It was a collaborative effort with all the Humber Theatre Performance and Production students,” says producer Jon Cunningham. “It’s a fun show and it really came together in the end. We had so much help from our mentors, I think we all learned a lot from this experience.”
There were notable performances from the entire cast, as it was apparent each student really put their all into their characters. Julia Vande Burgt had a particularly memorable performance as Charley Foyle, a character with both sight and speech problems. Elliott Ritter as Ike Lighting also gave a lasting impression on the crowd as he would interact with the audience throughout the play and break the fourth wall. Each character was connected through various storylines, and for an original play by students, Life Underground was outstanding.
“That was so much fun,” says audience member and Humber student Aleks Cobbs. “I thought it was really funny and each character kind of had their own struggles and personal