“The Brain That Wouldn’t Die” Deserves to Live!
by C.E. Gerber and Marybeth Irons
Let’s cut to the chase: it’s really good! How often does one attend a musical comedy that is not only musically interesting but also entertaining and genuinely funny? Unfortunately the answer is: far less often than the ads want us to believe. Luckily that is far from the case with Elizabeth Gelman and Tom Sivak’s engaging and clever entry in the New York Musical Theater Festival, “The Brain That Wouldn’t Die! In 3-D!!!”
A first-rate ensemble cast performs a first-rate parody of what is purported to be the world’s most execrable exercise in filmmaking (a movie of same name). Composer Tom Sivak’s music captures the several flavors and moods of the 50s-60s top 40, and always with wit and imagination. The score featured clever musical quotes, ranging from Chopin-esque arrangements to direct lifts from the theme song of “Leave it to Beaver”.
Lyrics by Gelman and Sivak sparkled with smart camp, with lines like “my medulla oblongata is working harder than it oughtta” and song titles such as “The Brain That Wouldn’t Die-Yi!” Both of course refer to the highly perverted plot of experimental transplantation, which the reader can only imagine in their worst and funniest nightmares.
More than an honorable mention must be made of all six performers on the stage. Liz Baltes, Stephen R. Buntrock, Taryn Darr, Jamie Jackson, Brian Charles Rooney and Kathy Voytko each tell their part of this horror story with style: great singing and fast-paced delivery with great comic timing and more than a little panache. Musical director Annbritt duChateau, director Tim Drucker and choreographer J. Austin Eyer work together to create some wonderfully funny, and sometimes totally absurd, moments set to the right musical tones.
The “3-D” tag on the title turns out to be a great stylistic choice as well. We are promised the finale will be in 3-D, and so it is clear from the top that our tone is tongue-in-cheek. Prop design is cleverly all in 2-D, lending visual cheese to match the comedy in the script and staging.
“The Brain That Wouldn’t Die! In 3-D!!!” surely deserves a longer life here in New York. We only hope it doesn’t lose it’s 2-D charm!