Try to imagine ‘The fault in our stars’, ‘Old Yeller’, ‘Romeo & Juliet’, & ‘The Notebook’ all meshed up together & you might get a heartbreaking story that comes to a fraction of what “Dani Girl’ is, the difference being is that ‘Dani Girl’ is so inspirational, interjected with flashes of dark humor & pop culture references, that you will force yourself to undergo the beautiful ordeal again & again.
Dani Lyons is a 9 year old girl whose cancer has returned after 3 years of remission. Dani delves into her imagination as a defense mechanism, even going as far as diagnosing her stuffed animals of various forms of cancer in order to understand her ailment. Raph, short for the archangel ‘Raphael’, accompanies Dani in her wild adventures as her guardian angel. After the funeral of her stuffed rabbit, Dani is distraught at losing her hair. Taking pity on her, Raph gives her the chance to win her hair back by winning a trivia game show, where she manages to answer every question (‘Cancer’ being the answer to everything :)) until the last which is ‘Why is cancer?’.
The idea is stuck in Dani’s head, that if she can answer the question as to why, then she can find a cure to her predicament. Dani enlists the help of her initially reluctant, fan boy nerd, and also cancer stricken roommate Marty. Primarily at odds with each other at the beginning, Marty & Dani forge a bond thru their common enemy. Through their minds eye, they miniaturize themselves & journey to meet cancer to ask their question. Facing cancer face to face, Dani is angered in disbelief at the answer she got, which was “She deserves me”, meaning that the victim did something to deserve cancer. Dani cannot find herself to accept this answer so she decides to take the question to the source itself, God. During her journey to heaven, they are sucked by a tumor in space & battle with a Vader-like embodiment of cancer. After a swordfight worthy of a lawsuit by George Lucas himself 🙂 they defeat Darth Cancer & reach heaven, only to be thwarted by cancer again this time as St. Cancer (in place of St. Peter) at the pearly gates!
Dejected twice in her quest, Dani resorts to overdose herself & Marty to be able to go to heaven & ask Jesus directly. Afraid, the two settle to do the deed in the morning, but when Dani wakes up, she discovers that Marty has died in his sleep. Reaching her limit, Dani slips into a coma. In this state she finally meets God who answers her question as to ‘why is cancer?’ God responds that there is no reason that something does not have to have a reason to have value. With her answer finally achieved, the show ends with God giving another gift to Dani, removing her cancer but in place of a new life.
I have seen quite a few musicals in my days but none have ever made me tear up quite like this. There are a lot of things going for this quaint production. The first being that Dani girl’s plot pays homage to ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ where the young heroine, trapped in a reality swirling in horror & atrocities, reverts into an inner imaginary world in an effort to establish a measure of control in an otherwise helpless situation. The idea is new & gives us a glimpse of how a child’s mind works. This is true especially in how cancer was presented. Cancer is a frightening disease and what makes it frightening is its intangibility. In order to comprehend & eventually battle with something unseen, Dani imagines it as an anthropomorphized villain.
I also enjoyed the ending where it is implied that Dani died but is never expressly stated, akin to ‘Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid’ or ‘Thelma & Louise’, both iconic pictures in their own right. An idea such as that does not need to be bombarded with graphic scenes. Giving the audience some leeway as to how it really ended seems more appropriate. Was Dani reborn… reincarnated even? Was it all just in her imagination or are angels & deities real?
The lyrics were amazing with its rhymes, & its beauty compounded as it was sung by Rebecca Coates. Relatively new in the theater arena, her name is one to watch out for. Prepare yourself for ‘Requiem for a Bear’, as this song had the audience howling in tears in their seats (myself included :)). Reb Artado shows us his diversity in assuming both roles as Raph & Marty in certain performances. No small feat considering the role of Raph already assumes several roles under it. Helmed by Toff de Venecia, we can safely say that based on this entry by SandBoxColletive, the young director is the future of Philippine theater.
What I brought home with me, was what God said to Dani when they met: “A thing does not have to be noble to have worth”. I find this statement comforting during the trudge of day to day life, when we tend to question misfortunes, problems, & bad luck brought upon us by fate. We cry out ‘why, why, why me…’ The only thing we can do is to soldier on forward, knowing that there is a reason for everything, perhaps it is making us stronger, or better. This is what I took from ‘Dani Girl’, what will you take away?
[stextbox id=”astig”]The show will run for 15 performances from July 11-27, 2014 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza.
For show-buying, block-buying, and ticket inquiries, please contact:
The Sandbox Collective
Phone: +63.2 585.6909
Mobile: +63.917 899.6680
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