BWW Review: YOURS, ANNE: Eventide's Momentous Ode to a Fallen Hero
The young Anne Frank, who unfortunately never made it through to times of freedom she and her family so eagerly awaited in the midst of World War II, is acknowledged not to have left this world without making her heartbreaking story known to those who did not experience what persecuted Jews did not so very long ago. The times of trouble she faced, saturated with both the intense fear of losing her life and the love and shared amongst those who actually were and - after two grueling years locked in a small space above a shop - those who came to share an equal burden, has given the world knowledge of a very brave child who undying hope remains inspiring. Anne, by means of her journal-writing, introduced others into her world wrought with hopeful anticipation of a time when she would be free, speaking to her journal as she would the best friend she so desperately sought during this time - an act that was meant to bring comfort to an innocent girl of thirteen, but the insight it gave to those not in her shoes is the reason the context of Yours, Anne is cause for such a beautiful story to be shared, let alone an astounding musical.
So saying, the Eventide Theatre Company has made a bold choice in sharing Frank's story with a Cape Cod audience through means of a score depicting her feelings while fearfully secluded in the "Secret Annex," with certain lyrics molded from actual quotes made by the young prisoner. It is safe to say that Eventide has done a spectacular job bringing both the joy and pain of Frank's life to living color for those who would not otherwise have understood the trials she and her family faced in such a gruesome time in history.
This is admittedly my first Eventide production reviewed, and I regret not having found this theater earlier in my travels. Judging from this production of Yours, Anne just seen, the sense of cohesiveness among the cast to express a story - especially one so poignant and significant as that of Anne Frank's that many can only acknowledge as understanding the basics of - is truly something that every audience member wishes to observe during a theatrical experience. With book and lyrics by Enid Futterman, music by Michael Cohen and hereby directed by Kay DeFord, Yours, Anne not only captures the raw depth of what tribulations both Anne and her family faced during a time when hope of freedom was bleak yet forever extant and strong, but it also allows people a chance to give both a heart and voice - a formal introduction, even - to a young woman who's spirits never ceased to amaze anyone fortunate enough to see this musical for all the beauty it holds.
Anne Frank once said to "Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy." One could only imagine how difficult it must have been for a mere child to find hope in such bleak circumstances - to believe that the captives of the Secret Annex would again see freedom, let alone in the future no longer be persecuted because of their Jewish heritage. There is something so unique about this musical, not only because Anne Frank is revealed as an energetic, rather sassy young woman, but because she is no longer just a historical figure: she is actual flesh and blood, and to hear her sing about the rollercoaster of emotions experienced during those two years of captivity really allows people to see the Holocaust in a whole new light. With such a talented group of actors to portray both the Frank family and fellow prisoners alike, Eventide's production is really something special because of how it is not meant to entertain in the sense of what a musical implies. By adding a score, the emotions that were obviously so prevalent amongst those in hiding invite the audience to feel while to simultaneously understand what true hope and courage look like in their most tangible, even fragile, form.
Anne Frank, along with her parents (Otto and Edith), her sister Margot, the Van Pels (Hermann, Auguste and Peter) and Mr. Fritz Pfeffer, are forced to hide in a small space attached to Otto's shop when the Germans came to occupy Amsterdam and began persecuting anyone of Jewish descent, sending them off to concentration camps where many would meet their deaths. From July of 1942 to August of 1944, these eight occupants evaded death by remaining hidden from the world, surviving by means of Otto's friends and co-workers who would smuggle in food and other necessities. Within the confines of this space, the fear of parents for their children, the love shared between sisters, the bonds created between the hearts of young lovers, all documented in Frank's journal Kitty to whom she looked as an outlet of what she could not have said aloud, comprise the beautiful subject matter for Yours, Anne; add to that a musical element that one would not expect to be there, and this production really has it all.
Madison Mayer, who plays the young Anne Frank, is amazingly talented, not only because of her beautifully strong voice which seems to permeate the room with each musical number, but also because of the energy she brings to this show. She depicts Anne as a person I never acknowledged her to be: energetic, optimistic, playful and perhaps even a little bit sassy, and more importantly reminding the audience that this young Holocaust victim was just like any emotional teenage girl, only with a greater sense of maturity and fortitude than most her age. Mayer really does a wonderful job in the role, and she has such strong stage presence that Anne Frank immediately comes alive before us all, and the audience cannot help but smile while watching her perform.
Lindsey Agnes as Margot Frank portrays the more reserved, innocent half of the Frank duo, and she, too, does a wonderful job keeping to that persona while breaking free from that for a bit to sing a well-done song about her desires - something rarely expressed, as one comes to understand. Her airy, soprano voice is ideal for her character and does well to convey her feelings in the midst of this chaos faced.
John Williams as Otto Frank, Julie French as Edith Frank, Garry Mitchell as Hermann Van Pels, Celeste Howe as Auguste Van Pels, Wil Moser as Peter Van Pels and James Swindler as Fritz Pfeffer round out this cast, each doing his or her part to create this world of the Secret Annex, bringing with them sheer sadness of a coat being taken and sold, flirtations with the dentist in the room and the romance that blossoms between Anne and Peter. All of these actors do well to not just tell a story, but also to tell it in a way that is particularly memorable so that audiences who have the good fortune of seeing this show will remember the story of Anne Frank as it should be told.
Credit must also be given to those not on stage: Artistic Director Toby Wilson, Musical Director and Accompanist Glenn Starner-Tate, Set Designer Ellis Baker and Costumer Judy Chesley for their contributions in making Yours, Anne a great production!
Yours, Anne began performances at Eventide Theatre Company (on the Gertrude Lawrence Stage within the Dennis Union Church, located at 713 Main Street in Dennis Village) on February 25th and will continue thru March 13th. The performance schedule is as follows: Thursday/Friday @ 7:00 p.m. and Saturday/Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $15-$20 and can be purchased by visiting theeventidearts.org.
Enjoy the show!
Photo Credit: Bob Tucker/Focalpoint Studio