Coming of age, imprisonment bring out strong performances in West Springfield’s The Diary of Anne Frank


Pictured: Catherine Ariale & Drew Holcombe dance as Anne & Otto Frank as Rachel Steiner (Mrs. Van Daan) watches (Courtesy of West Springfield High School)
December 7, 2012

All reviews are written by Cappies student critics and edited by Cappies adult mentors prior to publishing.

AnnaLin Woo, a student at Bishop Ireton High School , reviews “The Diary of Anne Frank” performed by West Springfield High School as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program .

Radio static crackles in the dead silence. Families cling to each other with hope, fear, and dread. West Springfield High School’s production of The Diary of Anne Frank relayed the powerful images of a young Jewish girl’s coming-of-age with disquieting precision.

Created as an adaption of the world-known book, The Diary of Anne Frank first opened on Broadway in 1955. It ran for only two years and was recently adapted and revived in 1997, receiving a nomination for Best Revival of a Play. The play follows the main points of the book, focusing more on Anne’s development as a person and the relationships she shares with her family and friends within the secret annex.

A delightfully genuine Anne, Catherine Ariale brought vivacity to every scene in which she participated. She played the energetic Anne to the hilt, first bothering the adult characters by asking too many questions and always running about, then giving the audience pause when she delivered her halting monologues filled with worry and trepidation. The character development and growth that Anne goes through is captivatingly real, resonating with the entire audience as she describes her relationships with her family, her thoughts on the war, and her dislike of hiding and not being able to go outdoors. Her growing relationship with the son of the other family, Peter Van Daan (William Shipley) portrays the idea of teenagers in love unerringly--charmingly awkward and extremely endearing.

Other standouts in the cast included both Anne’s mother (Carrie Wogaman) and father (Drew Holcombe), as well as Peter’s mother Mrs. Van Daan (Rachel Steiner). Wogaman embodied the idea of a nervous and frightened matron, her emotional facial expressions and endless hand-wringing lending gravity to the scenes. Often found comforting her or being the leader of the group, Holcombe’s Mr. Frank had a calming air that also allowed him to have a poignant father-daughter rapport with Anne. On the opposite side of the spectrum was Steiner’s Mrs. Van Daan. Her offhanded remarks and witty retorts had the audience chuckling more than once, giving a slight comedic relief to this heavy play.

Other facets of the play also demand attention. Despite a few microphone hiccups at the beginning of the show, the actors kept to their parts and continued without pause, speaking clearly the whole time. Lighting was used in certain scenes with striking effect, and James Clinton and his lighting team are to be commended. The sturdily built, antique-looking two-story set displayed a good amount of research done on the part of the crew, and the muted, drab colors only served to emphasize the fact that the families are essentially prisoners in the tiny annex. Accurate period costumes and props added to the tone of the production, and each character’s clothing subtly fit his or her persona.

The Diary of Anne Frank is known as a difficult show to perform, owing to the grave subject matter. However, West Springfield’s cast, crew and production team managed to put together a powerful rendition of an emotionally stirring play.

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