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The Diary of Anne Frank
by Musical Theatre of Anthem
“For someone like me, it is a very strange habit to write in a diary. Not only that I have never written before, but it strikes me that later neither I, nor anyone else, will care for the outpouring of a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl.”
For two years they lived in hiding from the Nazis, careful not to make a sound during the day when employees worked below them. One noise, one cough, one slip could give them all away. And that would mean being taken to the concentration camps, of which they’d already begun hearing about the deaths and the gas used to kill so many of their friends. Written by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett and further adapted by Wendy Kesselman, this show is a powerful stage adaptation of the diary kept by Anne Frank – a young teenage girl who in her fear found some solace in her writing, dreamt of being an author who would be useful and remembered after her death, and who, in spite of everything, managed to believe that people were really good at heart.
Musical Theatre of Anthem staged a most powerful production of this show under the direction ofLaura O’Meara with a talent-filled ensemble who make this historical event feel all too real and present from the opening moments of the show. It begins while the audience is still being seated, with their outside helpers Miep Gies (Jessica Kishbaugh) and Mr. Kraler (Andre Akcelik) making multiple trips into the hidden annex as they quietly load in the few supplies the families will need. When the lights go down there’s the sound of the rain outside, and then the Frank family silently walk into what will be their home for the coming years, their sadness and fear palpable as they slowly take stock of their new world and what it means. It’s a world that the performers all stayed in overnight during rehearsals, that they’ll stay in silently during intermission just as they live when the office personnel work below them during the days, and where they won’t leave until the show’s end when they are led out by the Nazis and never return.
Zoe Tanton is an amazing Anne Frank, finding a way to break the tension as Anne did for her family with her infectious humor, optimism, and playful teasing, determined to still live and find laughter, struggling to control her sharp tongue as she grows through her teenage years, exploring romance with Peter, and facing the moments of fear. Her eyes always naturally convey so much whether curled up in happiness, narrowed in anger, or wide with fear. Her monologue when woken by a nightmare of seeing her best friend Hanneli in a concentration camp is devastating. As her mother Edith Frank, Ann Emilie Tjorhom is rivetingly real with a shadow of fear and dread that almost never goes away, her reactions to her husband and her daughters (including Anne preferring her father’s company, and Anne finally being supportive of her), and dealing with the Van Daans are always deeply felt and magnified by her constant dread. You also fear that dread with Ava Tyson as Anne’s older sister Margot, quiet and reserved by nature, and sharing some nice moments with her sister and mother.Nicholas Gearing, the only adult actor in the show, is fantastic as the father, husband, and leader of the group trying to say the right things to keep them all alive. His closing monologue after the war is full of pain, shock, and irretrievable loss.
They share the annex with the Van Daans and Mr. Dussel. Nick McHatton and Emily Spets are great as Mr. and Mrs. Van Daan, Nick as a sometimes frustrated father, husband, and neighbor who nails an unspoken but seen sense of guilt when having to sell his wife’s fur coat as well as the embarrassment when he is caught stealing food. Emily is hilarious with her flirting and awkward frankness, as well as touching with her fear of discovery, hurt at losing her coat, and comforting of her distraught husband. Michael Hoover does a nice job as the awkward Peter who slowly thaws to Anne leading to a humorous first date and later an easy friendship. Jeremy Neiss is the newcomer dentist who adds drama as he tells them of the horrors going on outside the annex and some humor as the gruff and sometimes grumpy dentist dealing with the talkative Anne.
The scene when they are discovered is brilliantly and heartbreakingly performed, from the easy and happy enjoyment of each other’s company and the rare treat of strawberries, to their genuine terror as each reacts to the sudden arrival of the soldiers – the shock, the tearful race to follow barked orders as they rush to grab a couple belongings, and the hopelessness as they desperately try to find any comfort in each other amidst the confusion of the moment and the sense of certainty over their fate.
Performed January 8-11, 2015
National Youth Arts