Remembering Anne Frank through music

As Michael Philip Davis wrapped up a stint as vocal coach with the New York State Theater Institute a couple of years ago, NYSTI founder Patricia Snyder asked him if he'd be interested in directing a show with the group.

Davis liked the idea. He asked Snyder what kind of programs NYSTI did relating to the Holocaust.

When Snyder mentioned that NYSTI had put on Yours, Anne, a musical version of the Anne Frank story, Davis' eyes widened.

"I almost jumped out of my seat at Boston Market eating chicken," he said.

"Oh, you know it?" Snyder asked.

In fact, Davis originated one of the roles in the show, playing Peter Van Daan in 1979. He loved the idea of being part of the production again, so he agreed to direct NYSTI's latest version, which is being staged at Schacht Fine Arts Center on the campus of Russell Sage College in Troy through March 26.

Davis readily admits that it might seem odd to set the story of Anne Frank to music, but noted this isn't a typical musical.

"It's a musical drama," he said. "It's a real story with laughter and tragedy. The music captures the spirit just superbly."

Frank's story was famously told in her diary, which recounted the two years she and her family spent hiding from the Nazis in the Netherlands during World War II. Anne's father, Otto, was the only one in the family to survive the war, and he published Anne's diary in 1947, two years after she died at 15.

Three decades later, "Yours, Anne" was born. Librettist Enid Futterman and composer Michael Cohen were working together at an ad agency when actress and singer Andrea Marcovicci asked them to write a musical for her. When her hairstyle reminded Futterman of Frank, she and Cohen started working on a musical version of Frank's life.

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