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  • This Musical Offers Hope to Children Battling a Disease and to Parents Caring for Them

    Its dark theme is interjected with a sense of whimsy and adventure.
    by Jillianne E. Castillo .
This Musical Offers Hope to Children Battling a Disease and to Parents Caring for Them
PHOTO BY courtesy of The Sandbox Collective
  • Cancer is a difficult subject, and childhood cancer even more so. Dani Girl: A Musical About Hope, which premieres this August 2019, places its audience face to face with the heavy realities of how cancer affects a child. But more importantly, it also brings with it a small amount of hope – and even a sense of whimsy and adventure – to a dark theme.

    When you’re losing your hair to cancer, there’s no point in sitting around waiting for it to grow back — at least that’s how nine-year-old Dani sees it. Her life is a constant battle against leukemia and a lot of her days are spent in a pediatric ward. But where adults see grim and gloom, Dani, together with her fellow cancer patient and best friend Marty, find a place of imaginary game shows, trips to outer space, and lightsaber duels in a journey to find her hair and figure out an answer to “Why is cancer?”

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    “This is such a good musical if you're feeling lost and feeling sad because hope is a light in all the darkness,” Dani alternate Felicity Kyle Napuli, 12 years old, tells SmartParenting.com.ph during a press event for the musical. You may remember her for playing Matilda and Lion King’s Young Nala in the shows’ Manila runs.

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    Felicity Kyle Napuli and Luigi Quesada plays Dani and Marty respectively.
    PHOTO BY courtesy of The Sandbox Collective
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    “Having actual kids alternating as Dani and Marty adds a new, vibrant, creative energy to the show,” says director and executive producer Toff de Venecia, who also served as the director when Dani Girl first premiered in Manila in 2014.

    The show’s youngest cast members include Napuli and Daniel Drilon (from The Secret Garden and Fun Home), who is 15 and alternates for Marty.

    What I love about playing Dani is that it's physically, mentally, and emotionally challenging because cancer is such a big topic and with the help of my fellow castmates, I get to understand it better,” says Napuli. Her biggest learning? “In any challenge, like cancer, a child will not stop being a child.”

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    The cast of Dani Girl.
    PHOTO BY courtesy of The Sandbox Collective
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    The musical also stars Rebecca Coates (Agnes of God, The Secret Garden) in the title role and Luigi Quesada (Hair, Waitress) as Marty. Other cast members include Shiela Valderrama-Martinez (Binondo, Shrek), Pam Imperial (RENT, The Sound of Music), Lorenz Martinez (Miss Saigon), and Juliene Mendoza (Dekada '70).

    For parents wanting to see the musical, the show allows children 12 years old and above. Dani Girl features rather heavy themes after all, including death.

    When asked if she thinks older kids should go see the musical, Napuli answers, “It’s sensitive content.” For kids who do get a chance to see it, there will be quite a few things to learn if parents are there to talk about it later, she explains.

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    Rebecca Coates plays Dani while Felicity Kyle Napuli is her alternate.
    PHOTO BY courtesy of The Sandbox Collective
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    Older kids may find the characters relatable too despite having cancer in the story. Drilon attests to this. “Though it is a challenge [playing Marty], that’s what I love about him, he’s relatable. He’s a geek like me,” he says, referring to the character’s unquenchable love of movies.

    With themes like hope and imagination, illness and death, and songs about the importance of hair and the magic of movies, there’s childlike wonder and courage at the center of Dani Girl. A word of advice for audience of all ages coming to see it, prepare to wipe away a few tears.

    Dani Girl: A Musical About Hope opens on August 10, 2019, and will run until September 1, 2019, at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium in the RCBC Plaza, Makati City. Tickets are available through Ticketworld online.

    Dani Girl opens on August 10, 2019 and will run until September 1, 2019.
    PHOTO BY courtesy of The Sandbox Collective
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