The Burnt Part Boys – by Germantown Academy

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The Burnt Part Boys by Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, PA

November 16, 2016

Review submitted by Neelam Pandya of The Baldwin School

Germantown Academy had no problem finding their way to the Burnt Part with their strong production of The Burnt Part Boys.

The Burnt Part Boys takes place in 1962 West Virginia. It follows the journey of two brothers, Jake and Pete, along with their friends Chet, Frances, and Dusty, up the mountain in search of the “Burnt Part”. With the mines reopening, Jake and Chet are going back to work at the same place that killed their fathers. His younger brother, Pete, is furious and scared that they will die up there. He takes Jake and Chet’s dynamite and vows to blow up the mine. Accompanied by his friends, Dusty and Frances, and inspired by his favorite movie, The Alamo, Pete sets out on his quest.

Overall, The Burnt Part Boys was a strong production with fabulous energy. The relationships between both the principal actors and the supporting cast enhanced the believability of the characters’ journeys throughout the show. The light dance numbers nicely balanced out the heavier moments of the show. The harmonies at the end of every song were consistently on the pitch, which upped the quality of the show. Cleverly, the miners were wonderful stagehands that provided a satisfying full circle moment when they came out at the end of the show.

The principal characters in The Burnt Part Boys led the show. They fully committed to the emotions of their characters and dealt with heavier topics head on. Vinit Joshi’s resentful and dependable Jake made the audience feel both his anger at his situation and love for his brother through his number “Disappear” and dialogue. As Jake’s best friend, Andrew Piszek’s Chet balanced out Jake’s resentment with his happy-go-lucky attitude. Danny Ritz’s Pete gave great emotion and intent to his character, which explained his motive for blowing up the Burnt Part. With his great diction and character work, Brendan Carr was a true standout as nerdy Dusty. Naomi Friedman rounded out the principal cast with her swashbuckling no-nonsense Frances.

The commitment of the ensembles of the miners and townspeople heightened the connection of the close-knit community of miner families in The Burnt Part Boys. The dancers were in step with each other and seemed to enjoy themselves, which added a sense of fun to the show. The relationship between the miner fathers and their heartbroken children at the end of the show created a sweet lighthearted scene.

Although not student led, the special effects and lighting, especially during the explosion, broke the fourth wall. It helped the audience believe that they were sealed in the mine with Pete, Jake, and their friends. Although the sound had a few volume and balancing mishaps throughout the show, it made sure that the story was not lost. The principals, in particular, were heard well.

The combination of strong solo and ensemble work made Germantown Academy’s The Burnt Part Boys a shining light within the darkness of the mine.

 

Review submitted by Emma Danz  of Harriton High School

“Hi ho, it’s off to work we go!” could have been the mantra of Germantown Academy’s company as they took to the stage amongst coal miners, cinematic legends of the 1960s, and dreamers hoping for a better future.

The Burnt Part Boys is a lesser-known musical written by Mariana Elder that ran Off-Broadway in 2010. An unconventional and stirring score blends bluegrass with classic show tunes to share the story of brothers Jake and Pete, who lost their father in a horrible mining accident known as the Burnt Part. Set ten years after the tragic event, the show begins with the reopening of the mine and the consequent emotions that unravel.

Sharing such a powerful story, Germantown Academy’s star-studded cast handled emotionally charged dialogue and moving music with dynamic grace. Atmospheric lighting, versatile set pieces, and an energetic ensemble formed a backbone, providing ample support for the principle leads.

Danny Ritz led the show as defiant dreamer, Pete – the younger of the two brothers. Enhancing his performance with compelling physical choices and commendable vocals, Ritz portrayed loss and hope with heartbreaking success. Jake, played by Vinit Joshi, met his brother’s match with impressive vocal strength and an engaging character arch, his inner struggle evident through expert acting decisions. Remarkably, Ritz and Joshi, although undeniable individual talents, became all the stronger when standing side by side.

Enlarging and complimenting the storyline, were unsung heroes and priceless friends, Dusty, played by Brendan Carr, and Chet, played by Andrew Piszek. Carr brought many a well-needed laugh and charmed the audience with sweet vocals, shining brightest in “Dusty Plays the Saw.” Joining the boys along the way was Naomi Friedman, the energetic and confident tomboy that could shoot a gun and sing a wonderful tune.

This wonderful show was only further enhanced by exciting special effects, including a realistic explosion of dynamite. Moving set pieces crafted a world of theater that transformed the world of the audience members, transporting them from wooden seats to toe tapping Texas. The student sound designer effectively handled body mics and volume levels. All of these components in conjunction with the talented cast were a fool-proof recipe for success.

A huge and well-deserved round of applause goes to the entire company of Germantown Academy’s The Burnt Part Boys! May they never stop singing the song in their hearts!

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