By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
Over at Barnsdall Park's Gallery Theater, I saw a reading of Michael Koonan and Christopher Diamond's Dani Girl, slated to premiere in Canada next year after having already been workshopped in New York at the Cherry Lane Theatre, in Washington at the Kennedy Center, in San Francisco at American Conservatory Theatre, as well as at ASCAP/Disney Musical Theater Workshop.
This is probably the inverse of [title of show]. It's the difference between creating a musical while having no idea of what to write about versus writing a musical front-loaded with themes on the meaning and meaninglessness of life. God and Jesus play some part in Dani Girl, as part of a fantasia based on the life and death of a 10-year-old trying to fathom the point of her incurable leukemia. The title role was read/sung by Jenna Rosen, and her kid friend in the hospital, Marty, was played by Michael William Arnold.
Jason Graae stepped into multiple roles (God/Cancer/Father) with a kind of dexterity and animation that tugs against the inherently maudlin underpinnings. Among the fantasias is a journey inside the bloodstream of a toy bunny stricken with cancer, to confront the disease, and its Creator, in order to make sense of mortality. To us, the difference between being struck down at 10 versus 100 is all the difference in the world. Perhaps to God, those 90 intervening years are just a blip, and we're simply trying to ponder grief over something as arbitrary as a blade of grass wilting in a drought, or a leaf falling. Perhaps God, if He's still alive — which this musical places in doubt — doesn't credit human accomplishment or even the gift of life with the weight we do. Perhaps that's our myopia: our unwarranted conviction that we're supposed to be given a fair spin to have a few kids, or to write a few musicals.
[title of show] | Music and lyrics by JEFF BOWEN, book by HUNTER BELL | Presented by the CELEBRATION THEATRE, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd. | Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m. | Through Sept. 5 | (323) 957-1884
FESTIVAL OF NEW AMERICAN MUSICALS | At various venues | Through Aug. 21 | lafestival.org