What was your childhood like? Mine had a lot of laughter and fun. I had a few hiccups here and there — got bullied in kindergarten, was sick a lot, had to let go of some dreams early on, but when I reminisce about my those days, the good times are the ones that easily come to mind. I was loved and taken care of, and the world, at the time, seemed to be filled with infinite possibilities.
Dani Girl: A Musical About Hope is about the life of Danica Lyons, a 9-year-old girl with terminal cancer, and her quest to find the answer to “Why is cancer?”, in hopes of getting her hair back. Her everyday life is filled with play dates with her imaginary friend Ralph, her beloved stuffed toy Mr. Fritz, and her hospital roommate turned best friend Marty. She grapples with the meaning of life and death through imagined worlds, armed with an unwavering hope that everything will be fine in the end.
Dani Girl talks about cancer through childlike lenses without making it juvenile and cringey. It’s a story of hope told from the perspective of a kid with a terminal illness. Dani is aware that she is sick, but the painful realities of her life are masked by her colorful imaginations. She lives her days with an optimism that can only be attributed to her being a child: she knows that there is a chance that she will die, but does she pity herself? No. Instead, she ventures on a quest to bring back her hair.
The Sandbox Collective and 9 Works Theatrical’s staging of Michael Kooman and Christopher Dimond’s musical takes the audience on a whirlwind of emotions. There’s the inevitable pity that you’d feel for Dani and Marty who battle with terminal cancer. There’s awe for Dani’s resolve to bring back her hair. And for me, who knows nothing about Star Wars, there was also a whole lot of confusion when all the banter included references to the sci-fi movie. You’d find yourself laughing in between tearful scenes, and by the end of it all, you’d feel a certain kinship for Dani. Pro tip: bring tissues.
Watching Dani Girl made me feel as if my 22-year-old self can still dream like a 9-year-old. As if I can still believe that I can do anything I put my heart and mind into. And maybe I should. There’s nothing quite like a girl with cancer to teach you that anything is possible.
Dani Girl: A Musical About Hope opened on Aug. 10 and will run until Sept. 1, 2019 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium in RCBC Plaza, Makati City. Tickets are available at Ticketworld Online. For more information, check out The Sandbox Collective’s Instagram @thesandboxco.