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Telling Anne's story
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A powerful and haunting musical, Yours, Anne is based on the book, Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl.

It will be presented by the Little Theatre Inc. of Savannah on May 10, 11, 12 and 13 at 8 p.m., May 15 at 9 p.m. and May 16 at 3 p.m. at the Jewish Educational Alliance Theatre. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and students 12 and over and $5 for children under 12. Call 355-8111, Ext. 225.

With her family, Anne, a German-Jewish teenager, was forced into hiding during the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam. With her parents, sister and four others, she spent 25 months in a cramped annex of rooms above her father’s office.

To amuse herself quietly, Anne starting keeping a diary on her 13th birthday in 1942. Two years later, she and the others were discovered and arrested.

Anne, her sister and mother all died in concentration camps. But her father survived and released her diary for publication in 1947. Today, it is one of the most widely read books in the world.

The musical is directed by Jim Simmons, who teaches theater in the Savannah College of Art and Design’s media and performing arts department. In 1997, his production of Yours, Anne at Daytona Beach Community College was honored as an American College Theatre Festival production, and in 2001, Simmons received a Meritorious Achievement Award from the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts.

“This is the first musical made from The Diary of Anne Frank,” Simmons says. “It’s almost a chamber opera. The story has never been told in this way before. It has a beautiful score.”

The production is somewhat unusual in that it is being done in a style called three-quarter round, with the audience surrounding the cast on three sides. “This is something new for the Little Theatre,”Simmons says. “It’s almost like theater-in-the-round.”

Having the audience so close makes the action seem even more real. “They are maybe a foot and a half from the audience,” Simmons says. “It’s really, really close and intimate. It never fails to make the audience cry.”

In 1986, Simmons visited Amsterdam and saw for himself Anne’s hiding place. “They were on the fifth floor,” he says. “They were found out only because of a break-in downstairs. The thief heard them talking and traded information for his freedom.”

Anne’s diary was discovered on the floor, and after the end of World War II, it was returned to her father. “The story is sad, but there is a lot of hope,”Simmons says. “Anne’s last wish is to go on living after her death. And her story does go on.”

The part of Anne is played by Annie Janson, a senior at St. Vincent’s Academy. “From the time I was little, I always wanted to be in the spotlight,” she says. “To be able to do this feels like home.”

Janson has considerable musical theater experience, and has been taking voice lessons for 3 1/2 years. She most recently appeared in Les Miserables as Cosette and Oliver! as Nancy.

“This is definitely more challenging than other parts I’ve played,”Janson says. “Her being a real person makes it more special.”

This is the first time Janson has done theater in the three-quarter round style. “I’m excited to do it, especially in this show,” she says. “It allows us to take the audience to a deeper level. People will feel the emotions.

“It’s probably one of the most beautiful pieces of musical theater I’ve ever heard,” Janson says. “The music tells the story so well. It will definitely touch your life in a way other shows don’t.”

Roger Moss plays Otto Frank, Anne’s father.

“When we’re doing the blocking, we have to be conscious of the audience,”Moss says. “The music is absolutely beautiful. Bring lots of tissues.”

Others in the cast are John Able as Peter Van Daan, Jordyn Schafer as Edith Frank, Jessie Miller as Margot Frank, Todd Helms as Mr. Van Daan, Mandy Hancock as Mrs. Van Daan and Dr. Joseph Luskin as Albert Dussell.

Karen Nelson is the vice-president of The Little Theatre. “it’s been around for 54 years,” she says.

Currently, the theater is based at the JEA. “We’ve done five shows this year and will do it again next year,” she says.

The show is May 10, 11, 12 and 13 at 8 p.m., May 15 at 9 p.m. and May 16 at 3 p.m. at the JEA Theatre. Tickets are $15 adults, $10 seniors and students 12 and over and $5 for children under 12. Call 355-8111, Ext. 225.