Climate change has caused the end of the world at the American Repertory Theater and the result is a delightful vaudevillian-style musical, “The Last Two People on Earth: An Apocalyptic Vaudeville.”
Born out of a love for the same songs by the show’s two stars, Mandy Patinkin and Taylor Mac’s story begins, post-apocalypse, as Mac’s lifeboat lands on Patinkin’s island. By the time the perky Mac and curmudgeonly Patinkin learn to co-exist, you will have been treated to an enchanting blend of humor, music and good, old-fashioned showmanship.
Mac, whose “The Lily’s Revenge” was part of one of the A.R.T.’s best seasons ever (2012-2013), is definitely the more flamboyant of the two performers, while television, film and stage legend Patinkin tends to be more grounded and realistic. Through music (there’s not a spoken word in the show) and movement (courtesy of Susan Stroman’s playful choreography) they develop the kind of ego transcendence necessary to survive their plight.
Patinkin’s glorious voice is at its best during one of the finest renditions of “Quiet Please, There’s a Lady on Stage” you’ll ever hear. It doesn’t hurt that the number is smartly interspersed with Mac’s stirring performance of the dark “My Morphine.”
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There’s also a whimsical interpretation of R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It,” a silly “Making Pies” and a lovely song-and-dance moment “Real Live Girl.” There’s only a brief hint of “Bohemian Rhapsody” near the top of the show, which is probably just as well given the staid charm of the piece.
Silly props, a blowup doll, inclement weather and a score that includes Irving Berlin, Tom Waits, Randy Newman, Stephen Sondheim and Paul Simon could easily go awry with too much Freddie Mercury. By the time Mac and Patinkin “Row, Row, Row (Their) Boat” into the post-apocalyptic future, it’s clear that the music has been selected with the utmost care.
If you go
“The Last Two People on Earth: An Apocalyptic Vaudeville”
Through May 31
American Repertory Theater, 64 Brattle St., Cambridge
Starting at $25