There’s a hole in the world like a great black pit
And it’s filled with people who are filled with shit
And the vermin of the world inhabit it.
But not for long.
This past week I had the great luck to attend an advance screening of Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd, now the third (and a half) major incarnation of Sondheim’s 1979 musical, based on a 19th century pulp slasher. Sweeney is the greatest of all musicals, combining sophisticated music and well-written characters in an almost impenetrably dark moral fog.
What’s most interesting from our perspective is the way Sweeney Todd grapples with the problem of capitalism, an issue foregrounded in the classic Broadway staging and to some extent in the new film version. Let’s take a closer look at a few moments that emphasize this critique.
Note: This essay contains spoilers, and plenty of them. If you don’t want to know what happens in the musical/film, stop reading now.