THE WILLIAM PENN STORY (Brotherly Love Theatre Company): 2018 Fringe review

WPStoryBrotherly Love Theatre brings the story of Philadelphia’s founder, Proprietor of Pennsylvania, William Penn, brilliantly to life in an ingeniously unique music-infused fashion. Through a spicy mixture of musical genres including rap, rock, jazz, funk and hip-hop, this stellar premiere production instills Penn’s acute history, Quaker tenets, optimism and profound faith in his “noble experiment” with a sense of heart and soul that will have you singing praises all ’round. The show literally ROCKS!

A cast of accomplished actors blessed with beautiful vocals, converge with a badass band of musicians playing a vibrant medley of musical instruments, including guitar, bass, keyboard and piano, drums and others. Danielle Defassio, fabulous as Hannah Penn, and Gabby Wong portray various characters prominent in Penn’s past, as do Sean Vermeire, Peter Duong, Noah Donahue and Ben Diamond who also play select instruments. All are listed as co-creators as well, including stage manager, and director of development, Maida Joy Hanson Wrigley. Outstanding musical numbers such as the rap tune “Lord Baltimore” featuring Noah Donahue as a wigged out, dancing, wild piano playing Lord Baltimore threatening Penn, or the rousing “Let’s Go” wherein Penn persuades people to settle in Philadelphia, “Freedom is Our Demand” a song of the Lenape, or the tender ballad “Song of Loss” between Penn and his daughter Letitia, sweetly played by Gabby Wong, provide illuminating toe tapping testimony to the life and times of the over-arching architect of our city. Musical director and lead instrumentalist Adam Grode wrote the sparkling score and the book is by artistic director David Henry Wrigley, playwright and lyricist who also personifies Penn sotto voce—except when singing of course—charismatically bringing the man forth complete with foibles, and his daring beliefs.

Perfectly chosen period costumes were coordinated by costume designer Kelly Wong in conjunction with Pennsbury Manor and Marge Custer of the Lenape Village. Be sure to check out the highly informative program, which provides a plethora of valuable insights into the production, the players and Penn’s background.

[Lemon Hill Mansion, North Philly] September 9-19, 2018;

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