From left to right: Theater favorite Reb Atadero is alternating for the role of Raph; The mother will be played by Pamela Imperial at certain performances; Raph (played by Lorenz Martinez) is Dani’s imaginary friend and guardian angel who plays a total of 13 characters in the show; Dani’s mom (played by Shiela Valderrama) will do whatever it takes to save her daughter and makes no apologies for it


What if God was just another story? Maybe believing and make-believing aren’t all that different. Why is cancer?


These are just some of the thought-provoking questions brought to fore by “Dani Girl,” an Off-Broadway musical which is also the launch production of The Sandbox Collective. Leaning on the existential and philosophical and tethered with child-like innocence and a sense of wonderment, the show follows the story of nine year-old Dani Lyons, a young girl whose cancer has returned after three years of being in remission. As a result of her chemo, she loses all her hair. Far from sitting back and letting her condition take over her, however, she decides to go on an imaginary quest to get back her hair and find the answer to the question, “Why is cancer?”


Told from a child’s point of view, this provocative new musical by Michael Kooman and Christopher Dimond, winners of the 2010 Jonathan Larson grant, explores universally salient themes such as life in the face of death, hope amidst despair, and the peerless power of a child’s imagination.


A week prior to the first day of rehearsals, The Sandbox Collective put out an on-line call for auditions for a new musical that, at the time, was kept relatively unnamed. “We wanted to keep the suspense going,” shares The Sandbox Collective managing artistic director Toff de Venecia. “We also couldn’t mention the name of the collective because it might preempt the launch.”


Co-executive producer and The Sandbox Collective operations director Anna Santamaria adds, “It was a way of sieving the gems from the grime – seeing a mix of both seasoned and new talent rise from the woodwork. This was not just the start of Dani Girl’s journey but The Sandbox Collective’s journey as well. We’re happy to have the best talent on deck.”


The role of Dani Lyons, an extremely imaginative, spirited and precocious nine year-old girl whose leukemia has resurfaced after three years of being in remission, will be played by Rebecca Coates. Now on her fourth year of high school at the Enfuego Christian Academy, she has appeared in Resorts World Manila’s “The Sound of Music” and Repertory Philippines’ “Alice in Wonderland.” She is grateful to share the stage with her real-life teddy bear of eight years, Chester who plays Dani’s teddy bear, Mr. Fritz.


Alternating for the role of Raph, Dani’s imaginary guardian angel who is at times sarcastic, at times caring, are theater favorites Lorenz Martinez and Reb Atadero.


A veteran theater actor, Lorenz’ inherent gift of quick comic timing and tenor singing voice has enthralled audiences as witnessed in his myriad comedies and musical performances both locally and abroad. He recently played Lorenzo Ruiz in “Lorenzo,” the rock opera and Vernon Gersch in 9 Works Theatrical’s “They’re Playing Our Song,” among dozens of other shows. He was also the youngest actor ever to perform the role of The Engineer in the Netherlands production of “Miss Saigon.”


Equally talented is Reb Atadero who will also be playing the role of Marty in certain performances. Reb has appeared in over 20 productions for various theater companies, most notably as Benjamin Braddock in the iconic cult movie turned play, “The Graduate.” He was recently seen as Roger in 9 Works Theatrical’s “Grease,” “They’re Playing Our Song,” and Upstart Productions’ “The Attack of the Shakespeare Fairy/The Legion.”


Playing the role of Dani’s mother who will do everything in her power to save her child is seasoned theater performer and singer Shiela Valderrama who recently won the 2013 Best New Female Recording Artist at the prestigious Awit Awards. She was last seen as Belinda Blair in Repertory Philippines “Noises Off,” Rosario Ruiz in “Lorenzo,” and Miss Lyn Gardner in Atlantis Productions’ “Carrie the Musical.” She also completed a nine-month run for Resorts World Manila’s “The King and I” as Anna Leonowens.


Playing Dani’s mother at certain performances is Pamela Imperial who returns from Singapore, having played the role of Harriet in Singapore Repertory Theatre’s TLC production of “Rapunzel.” She has appeared as Crustacea in Trumpets’ “The Little Mermaid,” and was part of 9 Works Theatrical’s “RENT,” Resort World Manila’s “The Sound of Music,” and Trumpets’ “The Bluebird of Happiness.”


The role of Marty, Dani’s roommate in pediatric oncology who is obsessed with superheroes and movies, will be played by fresh-faced 16 year-old Luigi Quesada, a junior at the De LaSalle Santiago Zobel. Having been attending workshops in musical theater for the past seven years, he made his professional stage debut with Repertory Philippines’ “Peter Pan,” where he alternated for the role of John Darling.


Making her professional stage debut as Dani at certain performances is Mitzie Lao, currently majoring in musical theatre at the University of Santo Tomas Conservatory of Music. In 2005, she played the role of Anna Leonowens in Ateneo Children’s Theater’s “The King and I” and has been playing the lead role of Sinta in Ateneo High School’s Dulaang Sibol production of “Sinta” since 2008.


The show will run for 15 performances from July 11-27, 2014 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati City. It also promises to be a tremendous and meaningful fundraising opportunity for you and your organization with a potential ROI (return of investment) of 109%.


For show-buying and ticket inquiries, please contact 585-6909 or 0917-8996680. You may also call Ticketworld at 891-9999. Follow The Sandbox Collective on FB: /thesandboxcollective; on Twitter @TheSandboxCo; and on Instagram @TheSandboxCo. You may also visit to find out more about our shows and our programming, including talkbacks, tours, group packages, and student discounts.


Dani Girl is presented by The Sandbox Collective, with special participation of My Apt. by Heima, and media partners: Chalk, Metro, Metro Society, Working Mom, MYX, The Lifestyle Network, JackCITY, MYX.PH, Green Giant FM, Focus Media, Business World, HerWord.Com, and The Manila Bulletin.
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Dani Girl is presented by special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc.
About The Sandbox Collective

Founded by 20-something theater director Toff de Venecia with the help of 9 Works Theatrical’s Anna Santamaria, The Sandbox Collective is a Manila-based performing arts theater collective, committed to the procurement and development of new, groundbreaking, and cutting-edge theatrical work. Through its yearly programming, the company aims to stimulate the development of our local audiences, facilitate the growth of new artistic voices, and contribute to a keen and diversified theatre ecology within the local performing arts scene.


Critics weigh in on Dani Girl

“When you go to this musical, open your mind and your heart and, kinda like Never Never Land, you’re there.” – THE COLUMN


Many of the tunes are melodic and hummable, something missing in too many new musicals… DANI GIRL is good for the soul.” – THEATERJONES


“Not every fairy tale has a happily ever after, but that doesn’t make the laughs and hope experienced in this musical any less real.” – THEATERMANIA


By The LaSallian

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