by Jason Booker
The musical 21 Days centers on Julie, working in her parents’ bakery and diagnosed with three weeks to live. The opening number provides details about the diagnosis but remains vague about the specific diagnosis or how long ago it was given, but as she points out “I’m still alive.” Julie transformed her death sentence into one of banality: the 21 days actually refer to how many “great days” she can live through. As her time runs out and an annoying and unexplained booming sound effect marks off the days, Julie is asked on a first date by Ben, they have dinner to get her to take a risk and break out of her routine life. They then moon at each other in one of the show's few quiet moments, he proposes and they get married after a confusing song to prepare the nuptials… and finally they fight about children. Just what every couple does in the course of a few weeks, right? The play’s timeframe fails to make sense, rushing to the cliché important moments in Julie and Ben’s lives without enough dialogue to properly introduce songs or including a few regular days so the great ones can stand out. Instead, the authors, Tabia Lau, Jessica Kostuck (who also directs) and Mary Lougheed, mention time but do not incorporate the element into their story to raise the stakes, turning 21 Days into a paint-by-numbers musical about the stereotypical best days in a person’s life. Too many supporting characters (a gay couple that mince about the bakery and a waitress with a bad disposition) get tossed in too without subplots. The songs often suffer from cloy and clunky rhymes, too fast tempi for the cast to keep up and enunciate the lyrics and they usually miss the balance between the onstage musicians and the singers. The performances from the shy Ben (Ryan Anning), strong-voiced gay, Dan (Brendan Doherty) and the indecisive Julie (Elizabeth Conway) help a bit but not enough to save the show from a trite and rushed conclusion. Featuring corny choreography, the show is ambitious, aiming to tell too much in too little time, but mildly entertaining nonetheless.