Trinity Street Players’ Dani Girl
This musical may be about a child with cancer, but seeing it is a funny, moving, and healing experience
Reviewed by T. Lynn Mikeska, Fri., May 26, 2017
Full disclosure: Someone I cared about very deeply passed away from pancreatic cancer a few weeks ago, and I was still working through it all as I sat down to watch Dani Girl, the latest production from Trinity Street Players. I took a deep breath and willed myself to stop anxiously bouncing my knee. I wasn't super sure I was in the headspace to handle a musical about a girl with leukemia's search to recover her hair, but there I was, brittle and angry and grieving. I had no idea what to expect. I certainly wasn't excited about the whole thing, frankly. Escapism would have been infinitely more welcome.
And then actors Taylor Moessinger, Andrew Cannata, Ann Catherine Zarate, and Michael Reyna, directed by Jenny Larson, presented a play about a child with cancer. They sang and danced and made a metric tonne of references from my Gen-X childhood. They talked about Star Wars and Hodgkin's and fighting the good fight, and as the story unfolded, it became clear that this was not a play about death. It was a play about celebrating life's many possibilities, no matter where those paths may lead. Before I knew it, I was laughing at the very thing my heart had been so heavy over. It was a nice change, and I was forced to admit to myself that while I would have preferred escapism, Dani Girl was a play I really needed to see.
While extremely funny, Dani Girl leaves no stone unturned when discussing the difficult journeys that both patients and loved ones experience when dealing with a chronic life-threatening illness. The powerhouse cast turns in compelling and hilarious performances peppered with songs by composer Michael Kooman and lyricist Christopher Dimond that range in topic from the current state of God's health to the qualities of Indiana Jones, and the overall tone of mirth present throughout the story helps what could be quite the bitter pill go down easy as a Flintstones chewable. There was a lot of laughter.
And yes, I also cried. A lot. But here's the thing. There were a lot of other folks crying in the audience, too. And it was such a comfort.
So many people's lives have been affected by cancer. But as a culture, we're not very good at talking about serious illness, dying, or death. As a result, people often feel isolated in their grief. Dani Girl reminded me I wasn't alone. I was in a room full of people who had their own run-ins with Cancer, and for an evening, we all celebrated and grieved together. It was a tough theatrical experience for me, but ultimately, it was a healing one and one I would strongly recommend having.
Also, a warning: You may get the theme song from Clarissa Explains It All stuck in your head for a couple of days.
Dani GirlTrinity Street Theatre, 901 Trinity
Through June 3
Running time: 1 hr., 45 min.