REVIEW: Stage One presents Number the Stars

The beautiful stage for Number the stars
The beautiful stage for Number the stars
Liv Ashley

Based on the award-winning novel by Louis Lowery, Number the Stars, adapted by Dr. Douglas W. Larche, is based in Copenhagen, Denmark, during the Nazi Invasion. This show is undeniably an incredibly moving story of fearless bravery and love. This one-of-a-kind story shows how putting yourself before others can be more rewarding than you could imagine. 

Last month at Stage One’s classic Bomhard Theatre, Director Andrew D. Harrison’s adaptation of Number The Stars begins with three children, Annemarie Johansen (Bailey Evans), Kristie Johansen (Elizabeth Winkler), and Ellen Rosen (Maddy Richardson), being normal children, laughing and running home from school until they are stopped by two Nazi soldiers questioning their whereabouts and behavior, setting the tone of the frightening strictness of the Nazi’s that the country is facing.

The show then transitions into the Johansen family’s home, revealing a beautiful two-story set Tom Tutino designed. As the children enter the house, they are greeted by Mrs. Inge Johansen (Jennice Butler) and Papa Johansen (J. Barrett Cooper), the parents of Annemarie and Kristie. The tight-knit nature of the family is quickly shown as Butler quickly demonstrates her character’s personality as she comforts her children and their friend after being frightened by their past interaction with the soldiers. Butler does a beautiful job of consistently portraying a caring “mama bear” that her kids need in the fearful world they are living in throughout the entire show as their circumstances become more serious. 

As the show progresses quickly, we get to know and fall in love with the individual uniqueness of the three young girls in this production. Evans, a true standout in the production, helps the audience get to know the curiously mature young woman Annemarie, who is accurately described as “frightened yet determined,” a phrase that Evans embodies perfectly throughout the production. 

It is then revealed to the audience that Richardson’s character, Ellen, is facing a significant challenge, she is Jewish in a Nazi-invaded Denmark. Richardson’s character is forced to hide with the Johansen family and pretend to be the family’s late daughter, Elise, who passed away in a tragic accident. When Nazi soldiers come to Johansen’s house in search of Ellen and her family, Richardson does a fantastic job depicting the innocent fearfulness of Ellen, who is being faced with a genuinely terrifying life-or-death situation. She sticks to her story of being Elise to save her life. As the show continues and the severity of the invasion grows, Richardson continues to accurately encapsulate the raw and innocent fear of the uncertainty Ellen and her family face throughout.

Not only were Butler, Evans, and Richardson steller standouts in this production, but another notable actor who portrayed his role seamlessly was John Vessels, who played Uncle Henrik, Annemarie and Kirstie’s uncle, and Mrs. Johansen’s brother. 

During the height of the Nazi Invasion, the Johansen family makes the important decision to try and sneak Ellen and her family to safety in Sweden. Uncle Henrik, a fisherman, bravely agrees to aid in evacuating the Rosen family by hiding them on one of his boats to Sweden. Vessels portrays the lionhearted Henrik perfectly as he shows his bravery and care by risking his own life to try and save the Rosens from the Nazis. It is almost impossible not to fall in love with Vessels’ character as he, along with Annemarie, are the true heroes of the story. 

Although these four did the heavy lifting in carrying the plot of the production, the talent and work of the rest of the cast did not go unnoticed. Whether it was Winkler perfectly painting the picture of an innocent little sister, Cooper giving his family the strength to be brave as a perfect portrayal of a caring father and husband, or the soldiers perfecting encapsulating the terrifying strictness of Nazis in the 1940s, every single actor in this show carried their weight to make this show as truly life-changing as it was. 

In the end, the audience leaves the theater not only more educated on our world’s tragic history of war and ostracism but also with feelings of hope that if we surround ourselves with people who love us and people whom we can count on to fight for us, we will be able to accomplish just about any hardship that this universe throws at us. 

Overall, it is without a doubt that Harrison and the entire Stage One team once again put on a production that will be remembered by the Louisville community and beyond. Stage One always puts the best work on stage and pulls in all ages and types of people, and this production did just that and more.

About the Contributor
Liv Ashley, Staffer
Liv Ashley is a staffer for Manual RedEye. You can contact her at [email protected].
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