We continue our discussion with Barbara and Lloyd Cooper about “The Diary,” the new musical about the life of Anne Frank, which is making its premiere on August 22 at the Scherr Forum in Thousand Oaks.
VCOS: The action shows day-t0-day activities surrounding both Annes: the one in the annex in 1942 and the present-day Anne. Was this meant to show that we take the mundane everyday things we do for granted?
LLOYD: Actually, no. Originally, the Present Day scenes were just used as a vehicle to tell the story of the annex. When we did the first reading, a lot of the comments we got involved people wanting to know more about Present Day. We didn’t want to make a major story that would take away what was going on in the annex. But we created the conflict between Present Day Anne and her mother about the death of her father and the fact that she was blaming her mother for his death. So that’s the main conflict that we see and get resolved.
VCOS: But the focus is mainly on the annex.
VCOS: I was impressed by the whole score, but some songs really stood out, like “This Special Time of Year,” which uses two melodies sung in counterpoint like Irving Berlin used to write, one to represent Hanukkah and the other to represent Christmas. What are your musical influences?
LLOYD: I was heavily influenced by musical theater. That’s my main background, but Burt Bacharach, the Carpenters, the Beatles…
LLOYD: (laughs) You.
BARBARA: I bring the Jewish to the marriage.
LLOYD: But I would probably say mainly musical theater.
VCOS: What’s the separation of duties between you too?
LLOYD: Barbara inspires me and gives me ideas. She takes something I’ve written, like maybe a melody or a lyric and offers suggestions or changes. So even though I write the songs, she gives her input and I will invariably rewrite some stuff based on her input.
VCOS: Barbara, you’re playing the role of the mother of Present-Day Anne?
VCOS: Do you have children of your own?
BARBARA: I have Lloyd’s daughter, who is my stepdaughter. I have four-legged children of my own (laughs).
VCOS: Does any part of this play reflect realities in your own life?
BARBARA: Yes. There are lines that I’ve said in my house to my stepdaughter like, “You should be happy I’m not an evil stepmother and make you clean out the fireplace.” That’s how that line got in the show. We try to make Present Day be pretty much how a mother and a child would speak today. My character is a single mother, which a lot of people can relate to. But a lot of the dialog comes right from my mouth.
VCOS: I noticed that the region, the religious make-up and the racial make-up of Present Day are vague. Is this deliberate?
BARBARA: Yes. Because if we would have made it Jewish on both sides, it becomes a Jewish-themed show. We wanted this message to get to all people, so we made Present Day nondescript so that somewhere down the line in another production it could be played by a black family, by an Asian family, it could be anything, because unfortunately, there is always going to be war and there’s always going to be conflict. And there will always be thirteen-year-old girls going through the same things.
VCOS: Are there any plans beyond this run?
BARBARA: Broadway is a huge plan that we have for this show (laughs).
LLOYD: But really, there is nothing right now that is set. But we’re hoping to get people in to see this; producers and people who could maybe take it a step further.
BARBARA: It’s been a long road since 2005 when we started this, but we’re thrilled with how it’s unfolding now with Allan Hunt directing and Cindy Murray producing.
VCOS: Any thoughts about the cast?
BARBARA: The cast is an answer to our prayers. Every single one of them. They’re amazing.
LLOYD: Kimberly Hessler is Anne Frank, David Gilchrist is Otto, Tracy Ray Reynolds is Edith, Emily Albrecht is Present Day Anne, Barbara Matteson Cooper is Present Day Mom, and Julia Garber is Margot.
“The Diary” will be presented in five shows from August 22 to 25. See the VC On Stage Calendar of Events for dates and show times.