I was lucky enough to catch the final performance of “The Diary of Anne Frank”
last Saturday, so this review is way overdue (and not much use to those who were trying to decide whether or not to see it) - but even though I’m late (what can I say, it’s been a crazy week), I have to take a moment and congratulate Marshall’s Department of Theatre on one of the most outstanding dramatic productions I’ve ever seen.
The play is based on the writing of the title character, a young woman whose family (and four friends) managed to hide from the Nazi invaders in Amsterdam for two years - from 1942 to 1944.
The play did an amazing job of capturing the claustrophobic difficulties of so many people living in such a small space. As always in Marshall Theatre productions, the set and costumes were amazing. The directing team did a fantastic job of bringing all the elements together - of course, Gene Anthony is one of our finest directors, and he flexes his creative muscles to great effect here.
But the actors have to bring these characters to life, and they did a terrific job. Playing the title character was Autumn Seavey in her last performance as a student at MU. I’m completely prejudiced where Autumn’s concerned - she started out acting with First Stage Theatre, and I’ve enjoyed her performances in shows like “Schoolhouse Rock Live” and “Bye Bye Birdie,” and numerous shows for Marshall, including “Hair.” I was lucky enough to be her director in “Jesus Christ, Superstar,” and as far as I’m concerned, when it comes to singing or acting, she ranks among the best performers from this area. As Anne Frank, she managed to play a young woman and be utterly convincing in the role. Anne is an intelligent, willful teen, but she’s also a playful child, and Autumn brought all those qualities (and more) to life. I hate to see Autumn leave, but at least she went out on a high note.
I don’t want to slight any of the other performers in the show - they were all excellent! I was very impressed to see how well these students portrayed older adults - it’s not an easy thing for any young actor, and the performances here were absolutely convincing. Leah Turley, Courtney Susman, Jeremy Plyburn, Caitlin Haught, Adam Paul and the always-excellent Nick Reynolds played characters much older, much more tormented by the life they are forcved to lead, and all delivered great performances.
Also portraying young people in the show were Sean Watkins as the son of the Van Daan family, an awkward child who learns to cope, thanks to Anne Frank; and Shay Hannon as Anne’s older sister Margot, who bears every burden with quiet strength.
Special kudos to Adam Stephens, who was amazing as Mr. Frank. Through his experiences we feel the anguish of the ordeal the family went through. Much of the show hinged on his performance, and he was perfect - I truly believed he was that character.
We’re used to seeing great performances at Marshall, but few can match the emotional depths of this story. Outstanding work by all involved, and another jewel in the crown of Marshall’s Department of Theatre!