BWW Reviews: Kooman and Dimond's DANI GIRL

BWW Reviews: Kooman and Dimond's DANI GIRL
Rebecca Coates plays Dani Lyons; Reb Atadero, Raph
in The Sanbox Collective's production of Michael Kooman
and Christopher Dimond's musical DANI GIRL.
Photo: Jory Rivera

Manila, Philippines--DANI GIRL, a musical about a nine-year-old cancer-stricken girl Dani Lyons, created by the writing team of Michael Kooman and Christopher Dimond, is not to be missed.

Dani is a precocious girl who loses her hair to cancer treatment. She fights to live, and embarks on a magical journey to make her hair grow back. In her imaginary adventures, her teddy bear Mr. Fritz, geeky roommate Marty, and guardian angel Raph are her constant companions.

DANI GIRL is not your typical musical theater, particularly with its theme centered on cancer. Kooman and Dimond create a theatrical experience that many would not dare to visit/revisit, especially if it would remind them of a sad past or an ongoing struggle with cancer. Kooman and Dimond suggest that it is more difficult to go against what has been set; however, they urge their audience to see life in a beautiful way, amid the realities of cancer, by adopting a more positive attitude.

In the play, Dani, who lives in a state of denial that her cancer is recurring, engages in a battle that will involve her teddy bear, roommate, guardian angel, and the audience, too.

The play's songs help the audience forget the sorry state that Dani and her friends are going through.

BWW Reviews: Kooman and Dimond's DANI GIRL
Coates (Dani) with teddy bear Mr. Fritz
(Photo: Jory Rivera)

The play also prompts a roller coaster ride of emotions--amusement, sadness--among the audience that are watching a teddy bear--as if he were a human being--fight against cancer. (By the way, the teddy bear used in this production is personally owned by the show's lead actress.)

Director Toff De Venecia ("New Brain," "All Shook Up") hits the right chords in DANI GIRL. The play is his first directorial assignment at The Sandbox Collective, a performing arts collective, based in Manila, that is committed to the procurement and development of cutting edge theatrical works with the guidance of theater company 9 Works Theatrical.

Instead of hiring a real nine-year-old actor, De Venecia casts an adult actor Rebecca Coates ("The Sound of Music," "Alice in Wonderland") to play the title role, which is the wise thing to do. Coates is perfect for the title role; she exudes emotional sensitivity as the sickly Dani.

Reb Atadero ("The Woman in Black," "Bare") primarily plays Raph, as well as other characters. His most memorable scenes are when he played "God" and when he blew the dandelions, which is a metaphor for happiness and "new hope" as Dani embraces life after death.

Dani's mom, played by Shiela Valderrama-Martinez ("Noises Off," "Carrie"), gives a sterling performance as well. The actress paints a perfect scene of a grieving mother when she was assuring her daughter that it was all right to finally let go of her worries and start a new journey in heaven.

Luigi Quesada ("Peter Pan"), who plays superhero and movie fan Marty, is not to be left behind. He channels the much needed energy required by the role.

BWW Reviews: Kooman and Dimond's DANI GIRL
Shiela Valderrama-Martinez plays Dani's mom; Coates, Dani.
Photo: Jory Rivera

On the part of the creative department, set designer Faust Peneyra ("Addams Family," "Piaf") creates vivid imagery of Dani's imaginary journey throughout the play. Devoid of any LED animation, the dragon in one scene is an appropriate representation of Dani's battle for her life.

Prosthetic makeup designer Myrene Santos whips up believable prosthetics, especially when Dani and Marty are seen bald in some scenes.

Lastly, lighting designer Meliton Roxas Jr. ("Woman In Black," "Spring Awakening") provides the appropriate mood to heightened emotions on stage.

DANI GIRL plays its last weekend from Thursday, July 24, to Sunday, July 27, at Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati City.

For last-minute tickets, visit or

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From This Author Jude Cartalaba

Jude Cartalaba Jude used to contribute to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, BusinessMirror, StarStudio, Illustrado, and–to name a few. Currently, he writes for Philippines and (read more...)

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