Musicals sometimes get a bad rap for being overly campy with an extra side of cheese. Some are, and we love them for it, but others, like Bad Dress Productions’ Toronto Fringe feature 21 Days, prove that musical doesn’t have to equal camp to be successful.
With punchy, clever dialogue by Tabia Lau, 21 Days tells the story of Julie (played with great gusto by Elizabeth Conway), a young woman who was diagnosed with a strange and fatal disease at a very young age. The doctors told her she only had twenty-one days to live, but not just any old days, twenty-one amazing days.
In order not to die an untimely death, Julie meanders through a kind of half-life, afraid to be ambitious, reluctant to experience any extreme ranges of emotion, for fear of using up her time. That’s until Ben (a charmingly awkward Ryan Anning), a regular at the bakery where she works, gathers up his own courage and asks her out.
What struck me most about this show wasn’t only the fabulous performances (and they really were all around great), but the music. Accompanied by a live two-person band, the opening number set up the show excellently with just enough exposition not to be overkill, and proof that the cast could certainly carry a tune. The harmonies were amazing and the vocal ranges of some of the actors, Alex Mealia (who plays Dorothy) in particular, were jaw-dropping.
The show had grabbed me from the get-go and I was neck deep in its awesomeness, about to be completely submerged, but never quite got a chance to get there. Somewhere in the middle, after the especially complex (spoiler alert?) wedding number, I got a little bit lost. The story got a little bit blurry, it felt to me as though there might have been a chunk missing in the script that needed to be cut out to keep the runtime down to comply with Fringe.
I’m not sure, but it took me out of the show a little and I couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if Jessica Kostuck and her team had more time. If the show were an hour and a half (or longer) instead of just under 60 minutes.
21 Days is delightful, emotional and funny. It has some great moments and memorable characters (big shout-out to Brendan Doherty and Peter Perri as Dan and Dal, best coffee shop peanut gallery ever, I would know, I’ve worked in one). If you’re looking for something fresh and insightful, I think you should fit this show into your Fringe schedule.
After all, there are only four performances left.
- 21 Days is playing at Venue 4, The Robert Gill Theatre (214 College St., 3rd Floor).
- Performances: July 10 09:00 PM, July 11 08:00 PM, July 12 06:45 PM, July 15 02:45 PM
- All individual Fringe tickets are $10 at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at www.fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062, in person at The Randolph Centre for the Arts, 736 Bathurst Street (Advance tickets are $11 – $9+$2 service charge)
- Value packs are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows