“Why is cancer?”
It’s a question we’d all like to answer but could never really fully understand. Luckily for us, the answer may be within our reach as the Sandbox Collective presents Dani Girl, a musical good for the soul, at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium from July 11 to July 27, 2014.
About Dani Girl
Based on the heartwarming play of Michael Kooman and Christopher Dimond, Dani Girl explores the reality of cancer from a child’s perspective. In this musical, you’ll get to experience Dani Lyons’ adventures with her teddy bear, Mr. Fritz, and friends Raph and Marty, as she tries to understand the meaning of her cancer and the trivialities that come with it.
Directed by Toff de Venecia, the Sandbox Collective’s rendition of Dani Girl is a beautiful and emotionally-driven production, which will not only make you grasp the harsh realities of cancer, but will also allow you to appreciate all the blessings life has to offer. It will allow you to truly reflect on matters of faith, love, life, and the true meaning of death, thereby making it “a musical good for the soul.”
Moreover, this production features unique and up-and-coming young performers such as Rebecca Coates, Mitzie Lao, Reb Atadero, and Luigi Quesada, and professional thespians like Shiela Valderrama and Lorenz Martinez; the cast carries the subject matter with finesse and with gravitas.
Seen through the eyes of an innocent nine year-old child, this story does not fall short of vast imaginative dreamscapes and of youthful exuberance. Coupled with catchy songs and heart-rending performances from the cast, this musical is sure to captivate your heart and open your eyes to the reality of cancer.
In a forum with the cast and director, questions were raised as to the cast and crew’s preparation for the production of this musical.
The first question was about the reason as to why Dani Girl was picked among all the other musicals. Toff de Venecia, the director, said that out of the 200 musicals to choose from, he chose Dani Girl because it was a story viewers can take home with them. “[The] theater is a forum of discussion and not just a form of entertainment,” he explained. He wanted something more that the viewer could truly reflect on and talk about, and indeed, this musical is definitely one to be discussed.
Another question raised was to the cast members regarding the training they had to undergo for their roles. According to Rebecca Coates, her preparation for the role of Dani involved a lot of research. She said that Toff, the director, made sure she understood what it was like through the eyes of a cancer patient by having her read various literature and having her talk with families who’ve had experiences with cancer. Additionally, it also helped that she was able to talk to the people of Child Haus, an organization dedicated to providing shelter for patients with cancer and other diseases. It was through these ways that she was able to immerse herself into the character of Dani.
A question regarding the issue of spirituality was also raised. Throughout the musical, many references to God and faith are mentioned, so one audience member asked if there had been any spiritual advisers present during any of the practices or rehearsals. In response to this, Director de Venecia, said that there were no actual spiritual advisers present, but he considered Pamela Imperial, an actress also playing the role of Dani’s mother, as the cast’s unofficial spiritual adviser.
Aside from Dani Girl being the group’s flagship show, the Sandbox Collective also classifies their yearly programming under three names. Re:Imagine is the Collective’s unique take on a pre-existing show from Broadway, West End, Off-Broadway, and the Filipino theater scene. Not straying from original content, Blueprint is the Sandbox Collective’s initiative to foster original arts with their partnership with new voices to be launched in 2015. Lastly, the Sandbox Collective is already promoting their October 2014 launch of The Imaginarium, a multi-arts festival dedicated to develop and re-introduce groundbreaking and cutting-edge theatrical work to be held in the PETA Theater Center.
At the heart of the Sandbox Collective lies its desire to stimulate the development of the local audiences. The group offers student matinees for Dani Girl throughout the weekends of July; student matinees also feature a talkback with the show’s dramaturg, Giselle Garcia. On the other hand, Fore:Play is an interactive arts activity that the Sandbox Collective launched, in partnership with the students of the CSB Arts Management program, that will be a future staple with their shows.
Dani Girl is a product of dedication from the team whose sole goal is to delight audiences while bringing something new to the plate. Truly, this is a musical worth watching and one that’ll definitely urge you to reflect on your life and your blessings.