Courageously Defying the Odds Onstage

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Danita Crivello continued participating in “Lagunatics,” here portraying Sarah Palin, while battling breast cancer.

There will be no dry eyes either on stage or in the audience when “Down in Laguna” is sung during this year’s performance of “Lagunatics,” No Square Theater’s musical roast, which continues through next weekend.

The tune known among cast members as Danita’s song will now serve as a dirge for Danita Crivello, the Laguna Beach mother with a Tennessee twang who gamely started rehearsals for this year’s show, but died on Oct. 16 after a 12-year battle with breast cancer. She was 50.

“She put up such a long and brave fight,” said the show’s producer, Bree Burgess Rosen.

In a letter written two years ago, Crivello described her joy at participating in No Square productions, cast variously as an alien, a nude, a hippy and a goat. The shows baffled her oncologist by proving a healing elixir.

“It is weird that on paper I’m a sick gal with bones like Swiss cheese, but, in my reality I’m singing, dancing (somewhat anyway) and having fun doing my Lagunatic-therapy, where five other chemotherapies haven’t worked.”

“ ‘Lagunatics’ was a shining point for her,” said fellow cast member Lynn Epstein. When a very frail Crivello started attending rehearsals for this year’s show, Epstein was skeptical “Lagunatics” could again provide the miracle cure she clearly needed.

Substituting for Crivello in “Down in Laguna” in this year’s show, cast member Lisa Mansour starts the gospel-like tune without accompaniment. Every cast member joins in. “Who knew this would be the swan song,” Epstein said. “She’ll be there in spirit.”

The Crivello family, which includes her husband Vince and daughters Daniella and Gabrielle, plan a later memorial service.

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