The story, about a mad scientist-doctor (Stephen Buntrock) who accidentally-on-purpose decapitates his fiancée (Kathy Voytko), keeps her head alive, and attempts to reassemble her using another woman's body, has been tinkered with some. There's an utterly pointless prologue where the doc successfully reanimates a dead patient, only to murder him, and there's an interlude involving a Miss Body Beautiful pageant. But it's basically the same gruesome man-tampering-in-God's-domain nonsense, shot through with a surfeit of bad puns ("I want to quit while I'm a head," etc.). The doctor has been renamed Dick, and the fiancée Hedy, solely for more feeble wordplay ("You're not the Dick I knew"). The horror elements—a detached arm, a monster in the closet, a bin of body parts—are handled ineptly, and there are such shifting points of view that it's not always clear what's going on. Too bad, because Sivak's music is the proper combo of creepy and campy, and the cast is aces.
Buntrock—strong-voiced, handsome, and with an advanced degree in silly—deserves way better, as does Brian Charles Rooney in a variety of supporting parts. Voytko, seen mainly from the neck up, has less to work with, but overacts amiably and belts impressively. Clifton Chadick's set design is wittily all in black and white, until an unexpected Technicolor happy ending. Annbritt Duchateau's musical direction makes the most of Sivak's not-inconsiderable craft. But the level of humor is exemplified by the 3-D gimmick finale: actors running up- and downstage, period. The title is a misnomer, for this "Brain That Wouldn't Die," 3-D or not, proves to be brain-dead.
Presented by Brainstorming Productions as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival at the TBG Theatre, 312 W. 36th St., NYC. Oct. 9-16. Remaining performances: Wed., Oct. 12, 9 p.m.; Fri., Oct. 14, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 16, 1 p.m. (212) 352-3101 or www.nymf.org. Casting by Holly Buczek.