Stephen Sondheim’s musical version of Sweeney Todd and Mark Hollmann’s Urinetown share many characteristics, overlapping in some aspects of Aristotle’s six elements of drama, but also in terms of style and tone. Both have a similar dark comedic quality, which underscores more serious topics, be it revenge, corruption, or environmental abuse. These could be considered the themes of the plays—revenge in Sweeney Todd, environmental abuse in Urinetown, and corruption in both. The characters are also somewhat similar as both musicals have a corrupt miser who rules over an innocent young woman, among other like characters. Finally, the language of the two works is often akin, both utilizing tongue in cheek remarks to introduce characters and exposition. While the summation of each musical is wholly unique, they share similar devices and if a viewer enjoys one, they are liable to like the other. The theme of corruption dominates both dramas, and both take darkly comic routes to address the theme. In Sweeney Todd, the titular character becomes obsessed with enacting revenge against a corrupt judge who managed to banish him, drive his wife to suicide and steal his daughter. Urinetown depicts a town run by the evil head of the Urine Good Company, who, along with politicians and law enforcement, has imposed oppressive fees upon the poor. Both of these serious matters, however, are portrayed through rather amusing methods. The fees imposed by the head of the UGC, for example, are for relieving one’s self—water is so scarce that no one may pee without it being saved for recycling, or risk being sent to Urinetown, which as we find out means being pushed off a building. In Sweeney Todd, meanwhile, the source of humor used to highlight the themes is equally dark. Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett revive her shop that sells “the worst
pies in London” by baking the victims of Sweeney’s fury. These rather serious themes of corruption and injustice are not simply...
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