Love Death Brains (A Zombie Musical)
nytheatre.com review by Leslie Bramm
August 12, 2012
Welcome to Z Town. Just on the other side of the fence from us. Here a community of disgruntled Zombies try to thrive and survive on the meager remains the humans on the other side of the fence feed them. Dr. Scott Crawford (Alex Brick) is trying to discover if there is a way to integrate both human and zombie worlds, and uses his son James (Stuart Mott) as the test subject. He's helped in the lab by zombie doctor Rhonda Greenblad (Jamie England). On the human side of the fence the Government, represented here by FBI agent Jackson (Mallory Saurer) is telling the other humans that these "people" have leprosy. A group of conspiracy buffs think otherwise and plan to infiltrate Z Town to find out the truth. Meanwhile, naïve James has fallen for a zombie girl named Sidney (Jessica Jane Witham) who doesn't know whether to love James or eat him. The zombie rebellion, led by Mr. Olin (Bob Moore), your average middle class working stiff, is cooking up.
James is soon bitten, by more than love, and is transformed into a ghoul himself. Perhaps now his love might be requited. With Dr. Crawford's experiment in ruins, the conspiracy nuts launch an attack on Z Town, and the Undead are revolting. Hijinks ensue and the show builds to a musical battle royal, replete with spilled guts, in which (spoiler alert!) all save the good Dr. Crawford are transformed into zombies. Lest you think our mortal world in jeopardy, both ghouls and humans find a way to get along.
This new musical brought to us by Madison Performance Collective & Out!Cast Theatre seems to want to capitalize on the current zombie and horror genres that are currently a la mode. Alas, they fall short of the mark in a number of aspects.
Book and lyrics are by Sarah Mucek. The lyrics aren't as clever as the campy style of the piece needs them to be. Though songs like "The Good Experiment," "A Good Man is Hard to Find," and " Left Behind" show potential, I only wish the other songs had the same verve. The music by Meghan Rose is adequate, but lacks imagination and punch. There was a great live band performing: Corey Larson (percussion), Laura Detert (Bass), Jake Ripp-Dieter (guitar), and an un-credited piano player were tight, and fun to listen to. The story is overly simple, and unlike Romero's original Night of the Living Dead, the Godfather of all zombie art, this show has no larger, relevant point to make. Musical farce offers a lot of room to do just that.
Pete Rydberg's direction was just enough to get the actors from left to right, but he didn't take advantage of his energetic ensemble. Not in any interesting way. The cast is exciting, and tries to make the most of it.
Choreography by Cindy Severt was flat. I'm not a big musical theatre person, but the moves all seemed done before.
Love, Death, Brains feels like a show that was put together quickly, with a lack of attention paid to the necessary details of craftsmanship.