Review: The Burnt Part Boys, Park Theatre

“I watch women every Sunday tend a row of empty graves
Wives of men whose bodies never left company caves”

Another quickie as I continue to catch up with the openings I missed whilst on holiday. Receiving its European premiere here at the Park, The Burnt Part Boys continues the surprising number of musicals about mining (Floyd Collins alone would have scratched the itch, never mind Billy Elliot) and true to form, is musically really quite interesting. Chris Miller’s score folds in bluegrass and folk influences as befits its West Virginia setting and is certainly the strongest part of the show.

Mariana Elder’s book follows the impact of a tragic mining disaster on the hillside community of Pickaway – several men were killed and their bodies trapped underground but ten years later, news breaks that the mine is to be reopened, causing varied responses from the sons who lost their fathers. And particularly from brothers Pete and Jake, the former stealing some dynamite from his older sibling – now a miner himself – to force his own solution.

For all its melodic interest though, The Burnt Part Boys never really engages dramatically as the boys’ journeys – they each travel with a friend – are taken up with fantasy sequences with Alamo heroes and the ending, when it comes, smacks of a lousy sentimentality that is scarcely earned. Matthew Iliffe’s production is well cast though, Joseph Peacock and Chris Jenkins are excellent as Pete and Jake, as is David Haydn as their ghostly father-figure.

Running time: 90 minutes (without interval)
Booking until 3rd September

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