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ENTERTAINMENT
April 5, 2020

2/19/2020 1:08:00 PM
'Anne Frank' is beyond tremendous
The cast of “The Diary of Anne Frank” includes, row 1, from left: Gary Haines, Max Maschino, Amber Shafer, Alex Smallwood, Megan Snyder, Bridget Bingham; row 2: Jason Bliton, Annie Bingham, Stan Cool, Michael Brown, Fred Leicky, Leslie Reuter, Kenny Freeman, Ed Kellar and director Tom Taylor.—Staff Photo by Briana Barger
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The cast of “The Diary of Anne Frank” includes, row 1, from left: Gary Haines, Max Maschino, Amber Shafer, Alex Smallwood, Megan Snyder, Bridget Bingham; row 2: Jason Bliton, Annie Bingham, Stan Cool, Michael Brown, Fred Leicky, Leslie Reuter, Kenny Freeman, Ed Kellar and director Tom Taylor.—Staff Photo by Briana Barger
Wow.

No plays were more moving and absorbing than the one put on by the Jennings County Players last weekend at the Park Theatre Civic Centre.

"The Diary of Anne Frank" is such an important story, and the Players did it in such a fabulous way with an outstanding cast.

I watched the play during one of the special presentations for school children. Many of those youngsters were crying at the end. So was I.

Anne Frank and most of her family died in the unspeakably heinous Holocaust during World War II that took the lives of six million Jews and many other people.

While this was a dark element of the play, based on the actual diary of a teenage girl hiding with her family in Holland from the Nazis, the story explores the optimistic spirit of humanity that Adolf Hitler and his evil minions could not extinguish.

"I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart," Frank wrote in her diary.

Despite her young age, Bridget Bingham is already well known for her work on musicals and other upbeat plays. Portraying Anne Frank was a different role for her, and she excelled. She was a ray of sunshine as the bubbly 13-year-old while also depicting the gloom of her family's dire situation while living in an attic for two years to avoid the Gestapo and the Jew hunters.

Newcomer Alex Smallwood, who played Anne Frank's sister, Edith, is a real find for the Players. She was marvelous with a stage presence well beyond her young years.

As Otto Frank, Anne's father, Players veteran Ed Kellar has never been better on stage. His performance was sensational, and his tear-jerking monologue at the end was riveting.

Megan Snyder was so believable as the Frank family's maternal leader. She was the epitome of a loving, nurturing mother.

The superbly talented Amber Shafer showed her stage skills to the utmost in portraying Mrs. Van Daan. Michael Brown as Mr. van Daan was equally impressive. And young Max Maschino as their son, Peter, is another teen that made this play so believable.

Gary Haines was perfectly spot-on as Mr. Dussel, the elderly dentist who joined the group in hiding.

Stan Cool as Mr. Kraler and Annie Bingham as Miep Gies, the two who helped the eight people hiding in the Secret Annex, were magnificent, too.

Tom Taylor always brings a local touch to the plays he directs, and he did so again with the arresting personnel. While Fred Leicky, who was splendid and utterly realistic wearing Nazi Gestapo uniform, has no law enforcement background, the other officers came directly from the Jennings County Sher­iff's Office. They included Sheriff Kenny Freeman, Jail Commander Jason Bliton and Corrections Officer Evan Ponsler.

The wow factor continue near the end with a fantastic short video put together by Bri Barger poignantly bringing home the reality of continuing genocidal atrocities around the world.

Then topping it all off was a closing prayer and hymn by Leslie Reuter, a Seymour woman and member of the Sha'arei Reform Jewish Congrega­tion in Columbus. Wow again.

The costumes, sets, voice overs, sound effects and everything else in this production were all top of the line as well.

I am positive than anyone who watched "The Diary of Anne Frank" was moved by this unrivaled theatrical experience. The youngsters I watched it with certainly were. In my book, these kids are alright.

It was a tremendous presentation and a reminder how important the performing arts are to us in bringing home the message of humanity.





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