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Highlands High School's "The Diary of Anne Frank"

Review by Sophia Rooksberry, Walnut Hills High School Cappies Critic Team

Silence. The loudest force in nature. Found within it can be the most complex emotions, the most uncomfortable tensions, and the most brilliantly moving productions. Through the art of silence and the consequences of its absence, Highlands High School brought to the stage their wonderfully symbolic take on Albert Hackett's "The Diary of Anne Frank."

Because they were Jewish, the Frank and Van Daan families had to go into hiding in 1942 at the height of Nazi terror. Years after the discovery of their location, the diary of the youngest Frank daughter, Anne, was found and published by her father. Through Anne's writings, a story of teenage romance, familial connections, and unlikely friendships, all accompanied by the impending doom of the Holocaust, was brought to light.

A show with such a tragic past and intense precedent takes courage to surmount, but Highlands High School was able to send the audience on a roller coaster of emotions, all with grace and professionalism. All elements of the show maintained stimulating and overwhelmingly beautiful energy throughout the production.

Portraying non-fictional characters does not leave actors with much room to make defining choices, but Braxton Broering and Katie Buschle, in the roles of Otto and Anne Frank, seamlessly brought their characters to life with originality and vivacity. While the rest of the characters slowly lost their minds, Buschle brought a carefree, naïve energy to the group, while Broering provided sanity and a sense of comfort with his words. The trusting relationship built by these two actors in such horrible circumstances achieved the show’s most touching and personal moments.

When going through hard times, the relationships built with other people are the number one saviors. The situation in "The Diary of Anne Frank" was no different. The ever-changing relationships among the residents of the annex drove the plot of the show, from the intense chemistry brought to Otto and Edith's marriage by Braxton Broering and Eylie Lorenz, to the dynamic, patient relationship Zoe Zoller, as Margot Frank, crafted with Anne, her sister, to the gentle, unpredicted romance between Anne and Peter Van Daan, played by Logan Holbrook .

The first impression made on audience members can make or break a show. The set team at Highlands High School took the audience’s breath away with the realistic set decor and stage dimensions before the lights could go up. All of the technical elements, from the tear-jerking symbolism in the lighting design to the prompt historically-drawn sound cues, added a level to the production that would have otherwise been lost.

The stunned silence that fell over the crowd after the lights went down proved just how much of a difference words, no matter how insignificant they seem, can have on the most stolid minds.

Review by Olivia Simpson, Mariemont High School Cappies Critic Team

The room is dark. The only noticeable sounds come from the street and workers below. Empty shoes lace the floor. The smell of potatoes, beans, and an overflowing toilet clogs the room. Everyone is quiet, moving and talking only if necessary. This was the scene displayed in Highlands High School's production of "The Diary of Anne Frank" as the actors, crew, and director portrayed life in the annex.

Newly adapted by Wendy Kesselman and written by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, "The Diary of Anne Frank" follows the heart-wrenching story told in the book by the same name. The story follows the life of Anne and her family (father, mother, and sister, Margot ), the Van Daan family, and Mr. Dussel as they are hidden away for 25 months from the Nazis until they are ultimately found. The show emphasizes the importance of relationships as the characters challenge their own (due to the close quarters). 

Highlands High School beautifully showcased a devastating story; with a set fitting the actual size of the annex and resembling a page torn out of a book, actors who persevered being on stage the whole time, light work that brought emotion, and perfectly- placed acoustic music, their production of "The Diary of Anne Frank" was astounding. 

Portraying the energetic Anne was, freshman, Katie Buschle . The constant energy, sarcasm, and kindhearted nature made Buschle the personification of Anne. She persevered in being on stage the whole time while giving multiple monologues, and she never lost character. Braxton Broering acted as Otto Frank; with his commanding voice and comforting posture, he exemplified the idea of a dad. 

The comical and entertaining, Mr Dussel was played by Andrea De Cristofaro . With a role made for comic relief, De Cristofaro made use of his part through funny facial expressions and an accent that only added to his character. Zoe Zoller acted as the cautionious and caring, Edith Frank (Mrs. Frank). She showed great depth as an actor, particularly through her argument with Anne, where the internal struggle in disciplining her child was clearly seen. 

Not to be overlooked were the flawless technical aspects. The set was exceptionally done and well thought-out, with a ripped top resembling a ripped page out of a book. The lights seemed to never miss a cue, and in a well -thought- out manner, they were used to represent the characters after their deaths.

The room is dark. The bed mattresses are sloppily stretched across the room, and the chairs, blankets, and clothes are draped along the ground. Nothing is in the right place. Everything is quiet, and no one is home. The show ends with this scene, a room torn apart by Nazi soliders. The emotion in this scene alone made Highland High School's production of “The Diary of Anne Frank” phenomenal.

Review by Isabelle Armour, Cincinnati Christian High School Cappies Critic Team

Highlands High School captures Anne Frank's immutable words of truth, love, and grief through the exceptional production of “The Diary of Anne Frank .” Derived from the writings of Anne Frank comes a story of loss, friendship, and family. From the first time that Anne steps on stage to her final exit, the show was touching and had the audience in a whirlwind of emotions.

The set was beautifully designed, built to resemble the torn pages of a book. The dimensions of the set, while seemingly small, were built to resemble the exact living space that the Franks, the Van Daans, and Mr. Dussel l lived in for several years. This added to the reality and seriousness of the show. The lighting was spectacular and flowed from each scene to the next.

While the play had many moving aspects, Mrs. Van Daan, played by Madison Burnett, and Mr. Dussel, played by Andrea De Cristofaro, brought the comedic elements to the show, filling the theater with laughter and relief. Mrs. Van Daan brought a flirtatious energy that made the heaviness of the topic somehow seem lighter. Mr. Dussel brought a sense of gravity to the situation, showing that while that situation at hand was real and tragic, there were still moments of happiness found.

A standout performance was Katie Buschle as Anne . Anne's transition from childhood to womanhood was beautifully portrayed. Channeling Anne's rambunctious energy was a hearty task, and Buschle carried it wonderfully. Braxton Broering, who played Otto Frank, captured the relationship between the father and daughter beautifully and moved the audience to tears on several different occasions.

The Diary of Anne Frank is a show in which everyone already knows the outcome. However, Highlands High School brought a new light to the well-known story and an awareness to how gruesome and tragic the Holocaust was. It is a story that can and will be told for years to come.

Excerpts from Top Reviews

“Frank and Van Daan families, with well-dictated and emotive performances by all. Most impressively, the cast members were able to change the dynamic of a scene within a split second, showing mastery in displaying a range of emotions.

Anne Frank (Katie Buschle) is a lively, optimistic and clumsy young girl who dreams of experiencing adventure, romance, and life's simple joys again. Buschle's elegant portrayal of the boisterous Anne was both passionate and energetic. Buschle accurately embodied the raw thoughts, feelings, and emotions of a teenage girl as she struggled to leave behind all she has ever known”

-Grace Erickson, Mariemont High School

“The Orchestra was a wonderful addition to the show, helping set the tone for the scene. The use of radio recordings was also incredibly effective in introducing new events or issues. The costumes and props were accurate and authentic to the time period. Lastly, the crew did a great job using red lighting to display Anne's fear and rage.”

- Tierney Rasmussen, Mariemont High School

“Braxton Broering expertly played a man twice his age in his role as Otto Frank. Broering convinced the audience of his paternal nature during many conversations between his daughters, Anne and Margot, played by Zoe Zoller . Broering's performance was refreshing as he remained the voice of hope and the symbol of light in the dark, stuffy annex.

Mr. Van Daan, played by Liam Pergrem, made the already cramped annex feel smaller with his booming voice, incessant smoking, and constant pacing. Andrea De Cristofaro as Mr. Dussel added a breath of much-needed comedy into such a heavy show. Though lines occasionally dropped in volume across all members of the cast, every emotion from shock to joy hit the audience like a punch to the gut.”

- MJ Gabriel, Mercy McAuley High School 

“In addition to the commendable performances of the cast, the creativity of the set design, and decorations added to the historic and circumstantial elements of the play. The dimensions of the annex accurately mimic that of the actual one the Franks resided in, which created a more life-like scene. The mismatched chairs at the dining table indicated disorder and a "we will take what we can get" attitude, which seemingly corresponds to the perspective of Miep Gies (Lizzy Roeding) and Mr. Kraler (Samuel Hopper), who prepared the living space for the families.”

- Ainsley Helling, Ross High School

“The incredible performances given by some of the students often made me forget that I was watching a high school production. Katie Buschle as Anne Frank was like a firecracker bouncing around on stage, radiating the character's childlike excitement in her moments of joy and her heart-wrenching sobs in her moments of terror. Braxton Broering as Otto Frank exuded a maternal fatherly love for the other actors on stage. Eylie Lorenz as Edith Frank put on a convincing cold and distant facade, slowly warming up to Anne's character and granting her the love from her mother she so desperately craved. All of the actors were impressively able to maintain constant energy throughout their scenes despite the fact that most of them never left the stage.”

- Julia Antoine, Ross High School

“Every performance is engrossed in a set that exactly replicates the dimensions of the original annex the Frank and Van Daan family were forced to take refuge in. With walls split like torn pages of a book, paint that shows the state of wear, and props that reflect the era and conditions, the set decor is immersive and captivating. Costumes felt as if they were pulled directly out of 1944. The lighting washed the set and characters with warm yellows, hot reds, and cold blues, supplementing scenes with common color associations.”

- Gabriela Winegeart, Taylor High School

“Although the cast of this show was small, the message was still delivered beautifully, with each actor fully committed to portraying the strong emotions felt by the characters while telling this tragic story. The chemistry and family dynamic between the characters felt strong and real. Most actors were on stage for most of the show but handled it with grace. The author of the highly influential diary, Anne Frank, was played by Katie Buschle with youthful energy. Other stand-out characters in the show were Mrs. Van Daan (Madison Burnett,) The awkward yet lovable Peter Van Daan (Logan Holbrook,) Anne's sister and contrast, Margot Frank (Zoe Zoller), and Otto Frank, played by Braxton Broering, who delivered one of the most powerful monologues in the entire show as he reminisced in the annex, years after being forced into concentration camps and following the deaths of his daughters”

- Maggie Ellis, Notre Dame Academy

About The Cappies of Greater Cincinnati

The Critics and Awards Program strives to recognize Greater Cincinnati’s talented community of young writers, performers, and technical crews. High school theatre and journalism students who participate in the Cappies program are trained as critics, attend shows at other schools, and write and publish reviews. At the end of the school year, the student critics vote to give awards to their fellow students for outstanding productions, group and individual performances, and achievements in technical categories. Awards are presented at the annual Cappies Gala. Find more reviews at

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