The Sandbox Collective celebrated its 5th year with Michael Kooman and Christopher Dimond’s Dani Girl: A Musical About Hope. It was drected by Toff De Venecia with Rebecca Coates playing the titular role and Luigi Quesada as Marty – both originally played the characters during the first Manila premiere in 2014. Dani Girl certainly takes its audience to a journey without limits while asking the seemingly hard question: “Why is cancer?” Simultaneously witty and heartbreaking, Dani Girl is a quest of finding meaning in life amidst of trials.
I didn’t exactly know what to expect from this story with such an obvious heavy topic. As someone who recently lost her dad to lung cancer, I can say that the plot of the story hits home. You can only hope that it will get better soon. It made me wonder: what is it really like to have cancer through the eyes of a child? The thought alone may bring one to tears.
The story begins with Dani playing with her guardian angel Ralph, who will later on submerge into many of his alter egos. After three years of fighting acute lymphoblastic leukemia, Dani Lyons finds herself back in the hospital bed battling the same disease. Although it is curable, 9-year-old Dani loses her hair due to chemotherapy. Thus, the start of an exhilarating journey inside Dani’s imagination, trying to find the answer to “Why is cancer?” Along with her guardian angel Ralph and fellow cancer patient-turned-best friend Marty, they go from operating Mr. Fritz to fighting the Darth Vader cancer. It only proves that there is a superhero that lies within us.
One of the scenes that struck me the most was when Dani’s mother sings her solo “The Sun Still Rose”. Here, she sings about a fairytale story that basically sums up the life of Dani’s life and that of her family. She starts telling the story of the kingdom of blue skies, where the princess is free to dance with dandelions until she falls into a witch’s spell. The king runs away and a dragon places the princess in a cold cave. Still, the sun rises every day. Both Dani and her mom are able to get by each day and somehow, that’s all it matters. It’s no wonder why Dani is strong-willed; her mother is a fighter, as well.
The set of Dani Girl is simple, but they are able to maximize its full potential. The music and lights are in sync and cohesive. You should pay attention to the foreshadows and intricate details of the play. I’d like to think that having the same actor play Ralph, God, and Cancer is symbolic. They somehow gave meaning to Dani’s life. The choice of wardrobe for the aforementioned characters is a good symbol of hope. White spots, or hope, scattered on darkness. It is noticeable that the white spot gets bigger and centered on the chest of God, where he finally meets Dani. This symbolizes what Dani truly is: a Lionheart.
When Dani finally encounters God, the answer to the question is finally revealed. In the end, it is how it makes Dani feel, whether or not it’s real and how it brings her closer to the things that matter to her. With the show ending with Dani hugging her mother, they indeed put up a good fight against cancer.
If you are looking for an organization to help children with cancer, Make-A-Wish Philippines, one of the partners of Dani Girl, is the first and only non-profit wish organization in the Philippines. It is composed of a group of people working together and focusing on their goal to grant one wish at a time. They are open to volunteers or donations for those who wish to make an impact on another child’s life, specifically those who have terminal illnesses. This year, Make-A-Wish aims to grant at least 500 wishes.
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