I first saw Dani Girl when it was first staged in 2014. I remember falling in love with the beautiful story, which followed the adventures of Dani, a young girl battling cancer. Now, the musical has returned and it’s just as sweet, touching, and emotional.
The Sandbox Collective’s maiden production tackles cancer in a fresh and new way. Instead of presenting the story as something dramatic, Dani Girl explores the condition with innocence, through a whimsical journey filled with lightsaber duels, imaginary game shows, blasting off to outer space, and all the silly games in between. The mission? To find out “why is cancer?”
Leading the quest is Felicity Kyle Napuli, a wunderkind who imbues the role with both childlike glee and maturity. A role as heavy as this could easily swallow an actress her age, but Napuli brings us in to see the situation from her young eyes. I watched Rebecca Coates five years ago (she alternates with Napuli this time) and they both offer different things. Since Coates is older, her performance offers more wisdom and grace.
The rest of the cast is just as exciting to watch. Dani is accompanied in her fantasy journey by Marty, her fellow warrior and best friend. Daniel Drilon plays the role with youthful vigor, and is a bright and cheerful presence onstage. The adults are the perfect support and/or foil, with Juliene Mendoza playing Raph, Dani’s imaginary friend and guardian angel. His role is intriguing as he shifts from being a kind and helpful angel to something a little darker. Pam Imperial plays Dani’s mother with aplomb.
This strong cast was complemented by Michael Kooman and Christopher Dimond’s music, which features both joyful numbers and poignant ones. My favorite would have to be “Requiem For a Bear,” a heartfelt song about Dani’s stuffed toy Mr. Fritz. Sniffles could be heard around the audience, from me included. “The Sun Still Rose” is also a strong contender for Most Emotional Song, sung by Dani’s mother. Some of the upbeat numbers I enjoyed were “Comaland” (even if it’s a little dark) and “Why I Love the Movies.”
A musical about cancer may sound depressing but what I love about Dani Girl is that it’s filled with joy. According to The Sandbox Collective, this run puts a new emphasis on hope. They said, “In a world seemingly dominated by pain and suffering, the show aims to uphold the presence of hope amidst struggle. The show hopes to remind audiences that human beings have the innate ability to cope and overcome, and that hope can sometimes take on a different form, one that isn’t readily available to the naked eye.”
There won’t be a dry eye in the house when you watch Dani Girl. Do it anyway. It’ll change you.
This story is in partnership with The Sandbox Collective and 9Works Theatrical. Dani Girl will be staged from August 10 to September 1, 2019 at at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Ayala Avenue, Makati City. Tickets are available through Ticketworld. For more information, follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.