Sweeney Todd is a musical that perhaps only Stephen Sondheim could pull off. Sonically complex and unusually literate, Sondheim's music and lyrics manage to be simultaneously horrific and deeply, darkly comic. It is easy to laugh at Mrs. Lovett's cold capitalist calculus, but it is also disturbing to watch her bustle about her gory business with such charming élan. Ms. Wyche is flawless indeed, and provides a perfect foil for Mr. Sharkey as the morosely determined Sweeney. If there is one problem with the play's narrative, it is the perfunctory love story between Johanna and a dashing seaman named Anthony Hope (Rich Affannato). Despite fine singing by both Mr. Affannato and Ms. Schmidt, once people start devouring people, the romantic subplot naturally begins to seem a bit extraneous.
Indeed, it would seem that Sweeney Todd is less a romance or Dickensian ghost story than a smart satire of the insane appetites of capitalism. The rich eat, the poor get eaten, and the machine digests everyone in the end. By the macabre climax of the Lab's production, the cycle has come full circle: The righteous Sweeney has had his revenge, accidentally killed his wife (who, it turns out, hadn't actually offed herself), and baked poor Mrs. Lovett in her beloved pie oven. The daisy chain of depravity continues as the simple-minded shopboy Tobias (Jon Whittier) takes the razor to his master. The hungry apparatus is sated, the body count is staggering, and we leave the theater avowed vegetarians.
The Golem runs through June 27 at Theatre de la Jeune Lune; (612) 333-6200.Sweeney Todd runs through June 27 at the Guthrie Lab; (612) 377-2224.