“The Diary of Anne Frank” is a celebrated piece of literature that’s been adapted for the stage and silver screen. However, for a story about Jewish families hiding from the Nazis in a period of fear and strife, one wouldn’t think to turn it into a musical, which is what “Yours, Anne” manages to do, deftly handled by the Pittsburg Community Theatre.
“When you hear Anne Frank and musical in the same sentence, you tend to think sacrilege,” said Director James Ryals in his director’s note. “However, this show has been tastefully created and was approved by Otto Frank, the only resident of the secret annex who survived.”
With the music added into Anne Frank’s narrative, the songs help convey and portray the turbulent times of World War II for these Jewish families in hiding from German dictator Adolph Hitler’s attempt at exterminating those of the Jewish faith.
“Anne was a girl who dreamed big and a normal straight stage play lets you share a person’s feelings and emotions, but a musical — I feel like — takes it into a more dreamlike state,” Ryals said. “... In my opinion, (a musical) really heightens emotions and a way of conveying what you’re feeling.”
With the obvious backdrop of World War II, many of the songs reflect dark material and themes, such as “We Live With Fear,” “For the Children” and “Nightmare,” which McKenna Shaw as Anne Frank perfectly portrayed the sinister nature to her nightmare.
However, to provide some levity for the play, there are songs that are more cheery, such as Anne singing her dreams of being in “Hollywood,” the “Chanukah Song” which brings the characters together in celebration of the Jewish holiday, and “I remember,” that lets all the characters reflect on better times.
“That’s the great thing about this show is that it lets us kind of see a little bit more into the lives of the other people, but also see what was going on inside of Anne’s head itself,” Ryals said. “We got these scenes where its totally bright and happy, but it might have come right before a line something like ‘I can’t watch the children starve much longer.’ So there’s a lot of juxtaposition in the show.”
Shaw — 12 years old — takes her Anne Frank character through the motions from a 13-year-old irritating pre-teen chatting up the Van Daans and Mr. Dussell, to the young 15-year-old woman that circumstance aged her beyond her years, including romantic feelings for the Van Daan’s son, Peter.
“I thought it was a great experience to get to portray someone that I idolized for a long time,” Shaw said. “It was an amazing experience to work with all the people involved in this show, and all around, I had a great time with it.”
The rest of the cast filled their roles with moments of pathos and anger as well, where nearly every actor had a moment to shine.
“It is a difficult show to put together and they have done an astounding job in making it happen,” Ryals said, talking about his cast and crew.
“Yours, Anne” will play at the Memorial Auditorium tonight and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m.