Anne Frank strikes a false note

Via the Guardian: Anne Frank the Musical strikes a false note. Yes, it seems there is to be a musical based on the life of Anne Frank, backed, apparently, by the Anne Frank foundation – but not by me. The news immediately made me think of Mel Brooks’s film The Producers, in which Zero Mostel, for crazy plot reasons, needs a sure-fire loss maker to put on Broadway, so he decides upon a musical, Springtime for Hitler. Against all expectations, the show is an overnight sensation, which is ruinous for Zero. Much later, the movie was made into an (also successful) theatrical musical — called, unsurprisingly, The Producers rather than Springtime for Hitler – that would have taken irony a step too far.

Back to Anne Frank. Michael Billington puts it perfectly in his Guardian piece:

Anne Frank’s diary exists as a record of a young girl’s thoughts and feelings. Even the play based upon it, according to Kenneth Tynan when he saw it in New York in the 1950s, "smacked of exploitation". And a musical will surely take us even further from the world of raw truth. This is a vital aesthetic question raised by David Hare in Via Dolorosa. Visiting Yad Vashem, the museum of the Holocaust, Hare was struck by the thought that the paintings and sculptures on view seemed superfluous when one was confronted by the matchless horror of fact.

7 thoughts on “Anne Frank strikes a false note

  1. I had the same reaction — surely it’s a tasteless joke. But no. Let’s just say I will not be standing in line for tickets.

  2. I agree with you that it seems tasteless. And now is as good a time as any to confess it: I’ve never read Anne Frank’s diary.
    I know. I must be like the only person in the western hemisphere not to have done so. I gather that most people read this at junior high age, no? In which case it might be explained by the fact that I was in Catholic school through ninth grade.

  3. You can’t avoid Anne Frank in the UK as she is part of the primary school National Curriculum, you have to learn her story in year 3 (age 8) which I personally think a bit young for something so sad. The bookshops are stuffed full of “Anne Frank industry” material, and I do find it all rather tasteless. I read her diary when a late teenager and found it so awfully moving — but I came across the story myself, nobody made me read it as a class assignment. But I feel uncomfortable about the extent to which her intimate story is forced down everyone’s throats now. I appreciate it is important, even vital, to learn the lessons of the WW2, but not so sure that the extent of the focus on AF is the way to do it.

  4. I agree that age 8 is far too young to hear about this sad story. Children should be able to enjoy childhood without hearing about the Holocaust.
    At age 13 or 14 you are that bit more mature and can realise the enormity of that crime, and then I do think it should certainly be part of the curriculum.
    I have been to the Anne Frank Huis twice and cried each time.
    It was more poignant for me as my father during the winter of 1939-40, while he was an air raid warden and before he joined the army, built a secret chamber in the basement behind a false wall of bricks and stocked it with food and other essentials in case the Germans invaded.

  5. Yes, Norm, they have to build Anderson shelters as school projects these days! Complete with Spam.
    My parents always kept tins of food “just in case” for years – you would have wept to see the sell-by dates my sisters and I found on some of the tins in my Dad’s cupboards this summer. Mind you, I’m probably as bad, remembering being a teenager in “the miner’s strike” (was it 1972?) I still have a camping gas stove and cylinder in the shed, and a box of candles.

  6. I don’t think there’s anything like that degree of attention placed on AF here. Rebecca hasn’t had to read it yet, for example.

  7. I’ve often detected a slight paranoia in our authorities here, that future generations might forget the sacrifices made by their parents and (increasingly) grandparents during WW2. And the Anne Frank story is a very stark way of ensuring people remember it. I can’t argue with the principles, but I feel it is overdone, and also, as we’ve been saying, at a too young age.

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