Dani Girl – The Musical That Will Truly Capture Your Heart
The first staging of Dani Girl (Manila) at the Carlos P. Romulo at the RCBC Plaza, Makati City on July 11, 2014 was a success as some people undeniably wiped off their tears. The musical was definitely soul-enriching, genuine, true, and heartfelt.
During the open forum right after the show, one of the members of the press asked the director Toff de Venecia why the serious and heavy theme of death was made central to the musical. This is actually a valid query since most musicals nowadays are all about the happy endings, dance, upbeat music, victory, glory, and all of that theatrical jazz. But to experience and be riveted by Dani Girl is what it takes to get an answer to that.
One may say that Dani Girl is novel to the musical palate of the audience. However, how everything was done in a two-act musical with four actors, well-arranged music and live accompaniment, a practical make-shift immobile stage architecture, and lights that never went wrong in direction as emphasis was made on a few points in the show, made everything worth it. To say that it was a musical good for the soul would simply be an understatement. It was heartfelt, genuine, and right-on in terms of that nudge to reality. It made the audience think and feel. It captured everyone as questions about life and hope were much highlighted. It went beyond feelings. It went as far as letting everyone see the very situation of dying, yet still have the hope and desire to live on.
One of the make-believe scenes with Dani’s roommate Marty
At the beginning, Danica Lyons, the main character in Dani Girl, asked these questions: “Why cancer? Why die? Why live in suffering when there is no reason at all?” This gave the direction to the musical. As a counter-narrative to it, Marty, the character who played Dani’s roommate in the pediatric oncology area, attempted to reason that it could be a consequence to people’s actions and choices. Dani’s own reasoning says that it couldn’t be, though, because she has always been kindred, gentle, and almost perfect – the kind of child that any parent could ever wish to have. This then developed into questions about life, living, death, hope, strength to live despite many of life’s circumstances, uncontrolled ones, and the possibility of not living again.
Interestingly, this was shown from the perspective of a child who is supposed to play and explore the many good things in life. This exact perspective is what made it so refreshing to the audience, though – the audience who may have treated life as a routine, void of any emotion for the purpose of daily functionality. It was riveting because this is coming from a child who is seen as frail, weak, and incapable of understanding the complexities of life. Because of her mom’s faith, though, the faith that Dani had built in her, her hope, her reconciling self, her forgiving self, her positivity in life and in what it has to offer, and her compassion to live made it all possible for her to battle her leukemia.
Dani Girl definitely provided reflective and recollecting moments for everyone. Though the hustle and bustle of the urban and working life may have made people numb to emotional turmoil, Dani Girl was a step back into life, showing us that, no matter what happens, there is hope as long as you find it in yourself. Hope may come from people, loved ones, friends and family, too, but it should always come from within first and foremost.
Death and dying may be unlikely themes to tackle in musical theater. However, these themes proved that there can be a more essential purpose in theatre past being a mere pastime or mode of entertainment. It can be used to reveal the underlying meaning of life, people, events, complexities of other interchanging themes in life, and what it is like to live in a world that changes, challenges, frustrates, makes one happy or sad, or makes everyone see the beauty that is in him or her.
To Dani Girl Manila and the entire production team, congratulations!! I cannot wait to see more from this team.
By The Sandbox Collective
July 11 to 27, 2014
Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati City