Dani Girl Remains a Bright Beacon of Hope in its 2019 Restaging

What better way to see and experience hope than through the eyes of children, as Marketing and PR Director Sab Jose mentioned before the show. Dani Girl is one such story, told through a little girl’s reimagining of her own struggles in reality into a whimsical fantasy. The Sandbox Collective staged it for the first time 5 years ago, and is now bringing it back, at a time where we need a little more hope in our world.

Dani is the titular girl, battling through The Big C (that’s cancer) by imagining a more fun, less bleak world. In her imaginary world, her parents are rulers of a fantasy kingdom, and her guardian angel, Raph, plays games and sings fun songs with her. Having been alone in the hospital for a long time, she meets new ward-neighbor Marty, who shares her depth of imagination. They embark on adventures to discover why they were befallen with the “curse,” and more profoundly why it even needed to exist in the first place. “Why is cancer?” is the question.

I watched the show on its first weekend, and as part of the production’s charity efforts, they matched every social media post with the hashtag #DaniGirlMNL with a financial donation to the show’s partners. That was a nice way to not only promote the show but also help save lives.

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Dani Girl Gives Us Hope Anew on Its Re-staging

I watched Dani Girl’s premiere in Manila back in 2014. I was still a newbie with musicals when I watched it with my theater workshop classmates. Without any expectations or whatever, the show left me in tears. The show struck many heartstrings not only because it tackled cancer but for how it was told through the eyes of little innocent children. As young adults among all our responsibilities and the issues the world face today, we often forget to be like how we used to be as children: brave and hopeful.

In celebration of its fifth year, The Sandbox Collective is re-staging their maiden production, Dani Girl: A Musical About Hope. Half a decade later, the show underlines, among other things, the importance of friendship, and the family that can blossom from it.

Dani Girl opens on August 10 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium RCBC Plaza Makati.

Dani is a precocious nine-year-old girl who has spent her childhood battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia (A.L.L). Years of semi-isolated existence led her to develop quite the imagination, and she spends her days in the pediatric ward spinning fanciful tales that mostly feature her “guardian angel,” Raph. In her mind, her mother is a kind-hearted queen, and her absentee father, a king on a faraway quest. On most days, she has no one but her guardian angel, Raph, to turn to, until one day, a boy named Marty moves into the pediatric ward. Together, they decide to find the answer to the question, “Why is cancer?”

Rebecca Coates and Felicity Kyle Napuli as Dani

The two-hour musical rarely looks at the two children’s prognosis through a dreary lens, and instead takes you through a whimsical ride through Dani’s fantastical imagination, one full of spaceships and sword fights. But amidst the fanciful settings, is a grounded core. Beyond the characters’ bleak reality, is a tale of friendship, and finding family in those you least expect. As audience members join Dani on her journey of self-realization, they will walk away with questions of their own. Who is my Raph? My Marty in life? Who do we turn to in times of turmoil, and whose shoulders do we know will always be there when we need them the most?

Dani Girl 2019 Cast (L-R): Daniel Drilon and Luigi Quesada as Marty, Shiela Valderrama-Martinez and Pam Imperial as Katharine Lyons, Lorenz Martinez and Juliene Mendoza as Raph

Dani Girl: A Musical About Hope will star Philstage Gawad Buhay awardee, Rebecca Coates in the title role (Agnes of God, The Secret Garden). She is set to alternate with Felicity Kyle Napuli in the role of Dani Lyons (The Lion King, Matilda). Luigi Quesada will return as Dani’s best friend and fellow warrior, Marty (Hair, Waitress). He will be sharing the role with new cast member, Daniel Drilon (The Secret Garden, Fun Home). Returning cast members, Shiela Valderrama-Martinez (Binondo, Guadalupe, Shrek) and Pam Imperial (RENT, The Sound of Music) will be alternating as Katharine Lyons, Dani’s mother. Meanwhile, Lorenz Martinez (Miss Saigon, Binondo) returns and alternates with new cast member Juliene Mendoza in the role of Raph (Dekada ‘70, All Out of Love).

Toff de Venecia (No Filter, The Boy in the Bathroom) makes his much-awaited directorial comeback in this re-staging of Dani Girl. He is at the helm once more as director and executive producer. Joining him is Sab Jose as assistant director and marketing and public relations director. Completing the artistic team are Ejay Yatco as musical director, Stephen Viñas as choreographer, Faust Peneyra as scenographer and costume designer, Miggy Panganiban as lighting designer, Joee Mejias as projection & video designer and Myrene Santos as hair and makeup designer

Santi Santamaria leads the production team as co-executive producer (9 Works Theatrical). Rounding out the production team are Anna Santamaria as operations and finance director, Maine Manalansan as design director, Elliza Aurelio as associate producer, Pauline Gaerlan as production manager, Myka Cue as marketing and public relations associate, Jonjon Martin as public relations manager and Anissa Aguila as head stage manager.

Dani Girl: A Musical About Hope will open on August 10, 2019 and will have a limited engagement until September 1, 2019 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Ayala Avenue, Makati City. Tickets are now available through Ticketworld online.

Dani Girl: A Musical About Hope is co-presented by The Sandbox Collective and 9 Works Theatrical, together with our gold ribbon sponsor, Make-A-Wish Philippines. Special thanks to our silver ribbon sponsors: Privato Hotel Group, Toy Kingdom and St. Luke’s Medical Center; our institutional partners, Carewell Community Foundation, Childhaus, Philippine Cancer Society, Inc., CanHOPE and Cancervants; our community partners, Pineapple Lab, Classic Chef, K Best, and DC Superheroes Cafe; and our official media partners: Crossover 105.1, Pitchworks, Broadwayworld.com, Theater Fans Manila, Young Star, Uniquely Pinoy, and Art+ Magazine.

Himala: Isang Musikal Returns On February 10

The Sandbox Collective and 9 Works Theatrical are re-staging Ricky Lee and Vincent DeJesus’ Himala: Isang Musikal based on the 1982 critically acclaimed classic by the late Ishmael Bernal. 

After the presscon, I’ve never been more excited to see a musical. Especially that the root material was a film I’ve been watching in Cinema One (formely Pinoy Blockbuster Channel) when I was a child every lazy afternoon. In case you hadn’t already known, Himala‘s story centers on Elsa who claims to have the power of healing after the Blessed Virgin Mary appears to her. News of her miracles spread within and beyond her hometown Cupang attracting thousands of sick and curious followers. This causes an irreversible disturbance to the once sleepy town.

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A Christmas Carol: A New Wonderful Holiday Tradition

Globe LIVE! and 9 Works Theatrical brings back Alan Menken and Lynn Ahrens’ A Christmas Carol The Musical this December. This year’s re-staging features new stage, new cast and a new Tiny Tim among the many other surprises of this production. I’ve seen last year’s production and I must say, like the source material, it has become timeless. It never gets old and like a child who has longed for Christmas for 12 months, I don’t want it to end.

You know the story of Ebenezer Scrooge (Miguel Faustmann): an old, miserable and selfish man who hates Christmas. He rains on everyone’s parade when everyone else just wants to celebrate and have fun. Then one night, the ghost of his late business partner Jacob Marley (Noel Rayos) warns him to change his ways before it is too late. He tells Scrooge that three spirits would be visiting him to show how his life was, is and will be at Christmas time. Only then would Scrooge realize the true meaning of the holidays: love and family.

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Never Stop The Presses: Globe Live and 9 Works Theatrical’s Disney’s Newsies

The world will feel the fire and finally know!” – Newsboys, from the musical Newsies

It might be the season for raincoats and umbrellas, but Globe Live and 9 Works Theatrical‘s Philippine staging of Disney’s Newsies still set Philippine theatre ablaze. The Newsies boys were all fired up to let the world know that it’s possible to have all that talent on one stage. The cast spent six months training and rehearsing for a month long production, which was, after watching, definitely not enough.

Well-deserved standing ovation for the Newsies.

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Songs to Watch Out for in Green Day’s American Idiot

9 Works Theatrical and Globe Telecom are partnering to give you Green Day’s American Idiot. And we won’t have to wait very long to witness this amazing theater experience. But before its opening night this June 24, let’s take a listen at some of the songs that I’m most looking forward to listening live.

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Green Day’s American Idiot to Set Stage on June 24!

9 Works Theatrical and Globe Telecom are partnering to give you Green Day’s American Idiot. That’s right, for the first time ever Globe is co-producing (and not sponsoring!) a theater production with 9WT nonetheless. I attended the press conference last May and I was lucky to be one of the first to witness the talent set to rock Manila this June 24. Check out a snippet of their performance of “21 Guns” below. I had goosies you guys!

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Kanakan-Balintagos’ #Manhid: The Pinoy Superhero Musical

What if the EDSA People Power Revolution failed? An alternate timeline of Philippine history unfolds in Manhid: The Pinoy Superhero Musical

Manhid posterCultural Center of the Philippines, and Ballet Philippines, now celebrating its 45th year, present the ballet musical, ManhidWhat if the EDSA People Power Revolution failed? This is the question posed by the musical, which presents an alternate timeline of events leading to the present day. The people are plagued by the disease of Kamanhiran (apathy) and it is up to a chosen few superheroes to cure the people of this disease.

Sandino Martin (Cinema One Originals Best Actor, Esprit de Corps) leads the cast as the dream boy (in more ways than one ;)) Bantugan. Mark Anthony Grantos alternates. Regina de Vera (Der Kaufmann) is the female lead as the wind-bender Lam-ang. Teetin Villanueva (COLLECTION) alternates. Mayen Estañero (Lorenzo) leads the villains as Mamalahima, the Minister of Humanity.

Selfie with Sandino Martin, who plays Bantugan
Selfie with Sandino Martin, who plays Bantugan

The cast of superheroes the Maragtas also include: Allunsina, using her power as sailor mouth, is played by Gold Villar (Rak of Aegis) and alternate Kim Molina (Rak of Aegis). KL Dizon plays insect goddess Urduja. Dilim, the bringer of darkness, is played by Jean Judith Javier (Noli Me Tangere the Opera). Ronah Rastata is the healer Lagrimas. BP principal dancer Jean Marc Cordero and company member Kazier Policarpio alternate as half-bird half-human Sarimanok. Company members Victor Maguad and Erl Emmanuel Sorilla play fortuneteller Gawigawen.

And the villains of the Tulisan ng Bayan: Fred Lo (RENTCinderella) and Ricardo Magno (La Revolucion Filipina) alternate as Radya Indarapatra, the charming man with a thousand masks. BP principal dancer Richardson Yadao is skilled spearman Apolaki. Shadow puppeteer Malyari is played by principal dancer Earl John Arisola and soloist Timothy Paul Cabrera. Principal dancer Katherine Trofeo and soloist Denise Parungao play poison ivy Gonongleda. Witch doctor Rasagadang is played by soloist Rita Angela Winder and company member Ma. Celina Dofitas.

The cast of the musical Manhid
The cast of the musical Manhid

The musical is written by Kanakan-Balintagos (aka Auraeus Solito, director of indie darling Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros), and directed by Ballet Philippines artistic director Paul Alexander Morales, who also co-choreographed with BP2 (BP’s junior company) artistic director Alden Lugnasin. Vincent de Jesus, Carina Evangelista, and The Eraserheads composed the music. The Radioactive Sago Project is the musical’s live band, with Francis de Veyra as musical director.

Amiciness got to watch the afternoon show last February 22 and I must say that it is an honor to have witnessed an excellent original Filipino theatrical production. You too can watch the remaining shows at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo at the CCP Main Theater, on the following weekends: February 27, 8PM; Feb. 28, 2PM & 8PM; March 1, 6PM; Mar. 6, 8PM; Mar. 7, 6PM; Mar. 8, 2PM & 8PM. Discounts for students and young professionals are available on selected dates. Buy your tickets now!