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Saturday, 01 December 2012 23:58

Not a dry eye in the house

Written by Laura Kyro
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The story of Anne Frank is one known the world over. A young girl and her older sister and parents, and four others, escaped the Nazi persecution of the Jews by hiding in the attic of an office building (Anne’s “Secret Annex”) in Amsterdam for slightly more than two years before being captured and sent to various concentration camps where all but one (perhaps two) of them died.

Before and during her time in hiding, Anne filled a number of notebooks with her hopes, her observations of living in the Annex, and what life in general (the fear, the stifling incarceration, the uncertainty) was like at the time.

Many films and plays have been produced of her story, and even a theatrical musical, Yours, Anne (Libretto by Enid Futterman and Music by Michael Cohen, based on Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett). Yours, Anne was first produced in 1985, but it doesn’t appear to be staged all that often. I appeared in two productions with a small St. Louis theatre company in the 1990s—the latest in 1999—and this production for the Webster University Conservatory of Theatre Arts is the first time I believe anyone has staged it in St. Louis since then. I don’t know why more theatre companies don’t put this musical on their schedules.

Director Kat Singleton and Musical Director Larry D. Pry had talent to draw from in Conservatory students, and by and large did well with their selections. Dakota Mackey-MacGee was a pensive Anne, with a sweet voice and the presence necessary to stand as the soul of the production. Erica Stephan had a solid turn as troubled sister Margot. Jake Golliher and Mackie Saylor were also solid as Anne’s parents (Mackie has a lovely soprano). Scott Joy, Ally Young-Price, and Michael Williams portrayed the Van Daan family that stayed in the Annex with the Franks. Jeffrey Allison was Mr. Dussel, a dentist that came to the Annex several months after the Franks and the Van Daans.

The music for this production is technically difficult (don’t I know it!), and some voices were better than others at handling the songs and harmonies. However, except for one glaring sour harmony note and a couple of weaker voices that struggled a bit, I felt they all did a great job. The script jumps scenes somewhat erratically (needing to cover two years in slightly less than two hours), but the through line of the story is there, and the ending, when Otto Frank provides a recitation of the various fates of those in the attic, is truly moving and the reason why I titled this review as I did. Any criticism at all would be, in general, speaking voices need to project more, especially in the first act, to be better heard. Too, I thought it might have been nice for the company to have tried vocal accents from eastern Europe; they just sounded so gosh darn American.

Technically, the production was first-rate, starting with a massive, multi-level set (Ana Aburto, Colt Frank) that was perfectly suited to the needs of the production. I’ve not seen a set that looked that good for a while. Costumes (Abby Dorning, Jimmi Flug) looked perfectly to the time, however, the wigs looked like wigs. The sound design (Tom Haverkamp), as set in different areas of the theatre, really added to the production. The lighting supported the show well.

In all, a production I felt was a success, and also nostalgic for this reviewer (*snif*).

Yours, Anne runs 1:55 with a 15-minute intermission. It continues at Webster University through Sunday, December 9, 2012. For more information visit the Conservatory web site.

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