Follow TV Tropes


Theatre / The Burnt Part Boys

Go To
"Through the cracks our voices rise..."

The Burnt Part Boys is an Off-Broadway musical with music by Chris Miller, lyrics by Nathan Tysen, and a book by Mariana Elder. Miller and Tysen are best known for their Broadway adaptation of Tuck Everlasting.

The story takes place in the fictional mining town of Pickaway, West Virginia. The story goes that in 1952 a tragic accident occurred on the South Mountain Mine, with the susbsequent explosion taking the lives of countless miners. Due to this, the site earned a disaffectionate nickname - the 'Burnt Part'.

One of the men that died in the accident was the father of fourteen-year-old Pete Twitchell. In 1962 (the year the musical is set), Pete finds out that the Burnt Part is being reopened for business and his eighteen-year-old brother Jake is being promoted to work there. Following a tense argument with Jake, he steals dynamite and heads out with his best friend Dusty Rivers to blow up the mine. Jake takes his best friend, Chet Taylor, and sets out to stop Pete.


Along the way, Pete and Dusty meet thirteen-year-old Frances Boggs, a girl they had known for scissoring off another girl's hair in kindergarten. Her dad having also died in the explosion, she joins the two.

The Burnt Part Boys provides examples of:

  • Big Brother Instinct: Jake towards Pete.
  • Blood Brothers: Pete and Dusty. According to Pete, they swore to be "everlasting eternal soul twins under the crab-apple tree by [Dusty's] house in 1955." For context, they both would have been seven years old during this.
  • The Determinator: Pete, definitely.
    Pete: You can punish me until I'm eighty-nine, but I'm still going to stagger up there, even missing limbs. I have to see it. I just have to. And I am going to.
  • Five-Man Band: Pete is The Leader, Jake is The Lancer, Chet is The Big Guy, Dusty is The Smart Guy and Frances is The Chick.
    • However, Frances is much more on the 'brave and adventurous' side of The Chick. Rather than being kind and caring, she encourages teamwork through force (breaking Pete's compass so he'll have no choice but to let her come with), fear (of what she could do to them, considering what happened during the 'scissor incident') and taking control.
  • Advertisement:
  • Freudian Trio: Frances is the Id, Pete is the Ego and Dusty is the Superego.
  • The Drag-Along: Dusty, as evidenced by:
    Pete: Dusty Rivers, we are going to the Burnt Part today!
    Dusty: Petey. I didn't get to have my full breakfast today but I could've sworn I just heard the words 'Burnt Part', 'go to', and 'we'.
    Pete: Dusty. Do you remember when we swore with our blood to be everlasting eternal soul twins in 1955?
    Dusty: Some folks say the Burnt Part is still smoking! My gramps says not even a soul has been up there. That place puts the 'poo' in 'spooky'. Oh, and I am very mad at you.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Every character in the show (who isn't dead or a figment of Pete's imagination) has had a pretty miserable life, to be honest.
    • Pete Twitchell suffers with grief over the accidental death of his father. His mother has been depressed and bed-ridden for almost ten years. To cope with this, he latches onto movies such as 'The Alamo' and idolises strong male heroes like Davy Crockett in place of his dad. He also frequently acts like he's the protagonist of a movie to cope, speaking dramatically and treating everything like one big adventure. As well as this, he often imagines the characters he idolises giving him advice when he's stressed and/or upset. These daydreams are very intrusive and he has little control over them.
    • Frances Boggs not only suffers with grief over the accidental death of her father, but has run away from home because of her alcoholic mother and the bullies at her school. She clearly has some form of anger issues and finds it hard to control herself when she's worked up, lashing out in cruel and sometimes even violent ways. To cope with her grief and other life issues, she tries to take control of every situation she can to convince herself that she's strong and important.
    • Jake Twitchell not only suffers with grief over the accidental death of his father (see a pattern here?) but hates his career and wishes he could 'see something else'. As one of the two Twitchell children, his mother is depressed and bed-ridden, and it's Jake who has to take care of her. All of this has meant that Jake harbours a lot of anger and bitterness, but tries to suppress it because of the responsibility he has in raising Pete. Despite this, during the events of the musical, he ends up taking his anger out on Pete anyways.
    • Dusty Rivers is plagued with guilt because he's one of the very few people in his town who hasn't lost one of his parents, and therefore is unable to understand or emphasise with the grief his best friend Pete is going through. Because of this, he is self-deprecating and struggles with self-esteem. Dusty is incredibly loyal towards Pete, becoming very jealous when someone else stands between their friendship, and it's possible that some of this loyalty may be because of his guilt.
    • Chet Taylor has lost both of his parents and since then has been homeless. He is much more adjusted to his issues than the other characters in the show- possibly because he's an orphan- but is still affected by the loss of his parents, especially his father. He distracts himself from this by playing down his issues and trying to support Jake as much as he can.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Pete and Jake, with Pete being the foolish sibling and Jake being the responsible one. Despite this, Jake being responsible (journeying to the Burnt Part to find Pete) is perceived more negatively than Pete being foolish (journeying to the Burnt Part to blow it up), possibly because it doesn't have the 'I'm trying to honor my father' excuse attached to it.
  • Four-Philosophy Ensemble: Pete is the Optimist, Dusty is the Conflicted, Frances is the Apathetic, Jake is the Cynic and Chet is the Realist.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Pete is phlegmatic with shades of sanguine, Dusty is phlegmatic, Frances is choleric, Jake is melancholic and Chet is sanguine with shades of choleric.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Dusty, the only main character who doesn't curse even once throughout the show.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Pete and Dusty, Jake and Chet. (See the YMMV page for more details on how close their friendships are.)
  • The Load: Dusty for most of the show, but near the end he takes a level in badass and musters all his strength to push fallen rocks away to get them out of the mine. This is significant because Dusty knows he's The Load and hardly stops talking about it thanks to his nonexistent self-esteem.
    Dusty: Just a softie on a rocky road / a marshmallow on a mountain / the bad gene in a chromosome / best equipped to stay at home.
  • Location Theme Naming: Frances Boggs and Dusty Rivers are both named after bodies of water (bogs and rivers, respectively). Their surnames fit well in a show involving a nature-filled adventure.
  • Mouthy Kid: Dusty. He's always the voice of reason and can definitely whine about it if needs be.
  • Only Sane Man: Chet. He's the most well-adjusted to life without his parents, possibly because he's the only one of them who's an orphan (that being said, Pete and Jake's mom is so depressed and bed-ridden that she might as well be dead, and Frances' mom is an alcoholic who doesn't care about her). He's calm and logical during Jake's emotional outbursts, and also later on in the show when they're all trapped in the mine and freaking out. As well as this, everyone else's unhealthy coping mechanisms are much worse (see the Dysfunction Junction trope above for more details) and Chet's could be seen as him just being a good friend.
  • Punny Name: Pickaway = 'pick away', because it's a mining town.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Chet is red to Jake's blue. Dusty, Pete, and Frances are all red.
  • Ship Tease: Pete/Frances is hinted as as soon as Dusty leaves, however, once they all get trapped in the mine, Dusty/Frances is hinted at, with Dusty even offering to hold her hand.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Frances and Jake in spades, but they both pale in comparison to Chet.
  • Sleep Cute: When they are trapped in the mine, this happens between Dusty and Frances.
  • Small Girl, Big Gun: Frances. Despite being the youngest character in the show, she's the only one with a gun- an air rifle at that- and uses this to her advantage.
  • ¡Three Amigos!: Pete, Dusty and Frances.
  • Three Plus Two: Pete, Dusty and Frances (three), along with Jake and Chet (two).
  • Token Girl: Frances. She's the only female character in the entire show.
  • Tomboyish Name: Frances. Her traditionally masculine traits don't help this either- she has a short temper, she lives alone in the forest, she carries (and uses!) a rifle, she hunts for food, etc.
    • This could possibly be a subtle Meaningful Name too- despite being a girl, she is technically part of the titular 'Burnt Part Boys', since her father died in the accident too. Therefore, her masculine name makes her have more common ground with the other boys in the show. This would probably be less likely to be true if there weren't only five main characters.
  • Two Guys and a Girl: Pete, Dusty, and Frances, who spend much of the show together.
  • With a Friend and a Stranger: Pete, who journeys to the Burnt Part with Dusty (his childhood friend) and Frances (someone he barely knows).
    • It should be noted that Frances isn't a complete stranger. They knew her in kindergarten, and are aware of the fact that she ran away from home. Even Chet recognises her when the groups merge on the Burnt Part.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: In order to find closure, Pete steals dynamite from his brother and lies to his friends in order to get to the Burnt Part in hopes of blowing it up. This is made even worse when they're at the Burnt Part; Pete disobeys Jake and sets off the dynamite while they're inside, unintentionally trapping them all in the mine without light or oxygen for twelve hours, which almost kills them.

Example of: