Anne Frank… a musical?

Since the publication of her diary in 1947, Anne Frank has become a Dutch icon, beloved around the world. Now her story has been made into a Spanish musical. And it’s caused quite a controversy.

The musical is called El diario de Ana Frank — un canto a la vida (The Diary of Anne Frank: A Song to Life), and it opened in Madrid last week.

At issue is whether or not it’s appropriate to make a musical – traditionally a light, happy form of entertainment – out of such a serious story. The two main camps are The Anne Frank Foundation – which maintains the museum based in the house in Amsterdam where Anne lived with her family – and the Anne Frank Fund – based in Basel and headed by her only surviving relative, cousin Buddy Elias.

The Foundation has said it supports the show, but the Fund – which holds the rights to the diary, has refused to allow the musical to use any direct quotes, and has even said the musical shouldn’t go forward. Buddy Elias is quoted as saying “The Frank family was living in hiding for two years, which ended in tragedy – that’s no theme for a happy evening of song and dance.”

Dramatic story

While the sentiment may be understandable, the director of the production, Rafael Alvero, doesn’t agree.

“I really think this is not a problem for anyone – even for Buddy Elias. Because we like and respect the story. We invested ten years working with the house of Anne Frank in Amsterdam to be comfortable knowing that everything has been done as they wanted and as we wanted. We never thought whether or not we could use quotes from the diary.

The most important thing was to work together with Anne Frank’s family, foundation, and everybody involved in the story. When we heard that Buddy Elias was not happy about the musical, I would like to say that a musical is not a light thing with American parameters – because there are many sad dramatic stories as musicals – Les Miserables, Jesus Christ Super Star, Miss Saigon – and Anne Frank is a dramatic story, but at the same time it’s a good story for entertainin in terms of something which is going to be good for the family and everybody to revisit.”Isabello Castello
Rafael Alvero isn’t the only one with a positive image of the production – preview audiences have been very positive. And everyone seems to love Isabella Castillo, the 13-year-old Cuban-American actress who plays the part of Anne. She talks here about what the production means to her.

“We’re trying to show the face of happiness of Anne Frank. And this is a musical and music is beautiful and touches your heart. She always had hope and faith and that’s the most important thing and I think it’s going to touch people’s hearts.”

Despite the controversy, the show has gone on and the music has become very popular on Spanish radio. As Isabella Castillo explains, the theme song Radio Querido – and Anne Frank’s story – are easy to identify with.

“The song Radio Querida means ‘dear radio’. I love doing that song because I imagine how Anne Frank felt when she heard the radio. She wanted to know what was happening outside. It basically transmits hope of flying to liberty and that really means a lot to me.”

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Anne Frank… a musical?
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