The chef’s hats would never get to the actors on time. In early December, Seaview Productions announced that it would turn a viral TikTok phenomenon into Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical, a professional production with experienced artists such as Wayne Brady and Tituss Burgess, in just under a month. The production of musicals, including virtual ones, usually takes months, if not years. And with the holidays ahead, Seaview couldn’t send microphones, greenscreens, or tiny rat ears to cast members in time to record their scenes.
« Our costume consultant, Tilly Grimes, screened the actors’ closets on video chat, » says producer Greg Nobile, who produced Jeremy O.. Harris’ Tony-nominated Slave Play and Jake Gyllenhaal star Sea Wall / A Life. “We just asked, ‘Are you gray? ‘Do you have makeup so you can put whiskers on your face? ‘Can you make those mittens look like rat’s feet? ‘The point was to really lean into the aesthetic of TikTok which is totally frenetic and DIY. ”
Ratatouille: The TikTok musical, which the audience on 1. January via TodayTix. 1 for $ 5 to $ 50 in aid of the Actors Fund represents a merger between two layered creative areas: the New York establishment and Digital Upstarts. When theaters around the world closed this spring due to COVID-19, professionals and theater kids alike turned to TikTok as a creative medium. The Gen Z-focused social media platform that allows users to create minute-long videos turned out to be more accessible than the Great White Way.
It started when Emily Jacobsen, a 26-year-old school teacher from Hartsdale, N. . Y. . , released a squeaky a cappella ode to Pixar character Remy the Rat on TikTok in October. The ballad Jacobsen composed while cleaning her apartment went viral. Other users used the platform’s « duet » feature to add new background music or melodies, choreograph dances, and create panoramas of a moving stage. They even designed a fake game slip. « TikTok is great for collaborations, » says RJ Christian, a 21-year-old student and composer from New York University. “A video can be re-contextualized and used for other purposes and passed around, die and be brought back to life in other ways. TikTok had designed all the pieces for a ratatouille musical. Someone just had to put them together.
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Lucy Moss, 26, one of the most promising young directors in the West End, will be the youngest woman to ever direct a Broadway show when Six, her hit pop musical about the Tudor queens, is next migrates from London to New York year – intensified. She will put together 10 songs taken from TikTok creations and two new numbers written by the show’s music director, Daniel Mertzlufft, who previously wrote music for The Late Late Show with James Cordon. The impressive cast and crew include Adam Lambert, Tony winner André De Shields, Ashley Park from Emily in Paris and Andrew Barth Feldman from Dear Evan Hanson, as well as a choir and a 20-piece, all female, mostly POC orchestra called The Broadway Symphonetta. Moss describes the very first TikTok musical as “a zoom reading that drank 20 Red Bulls. « That’s how it all came together.
Ratatouille wasn’t an obvious source of a viral hit in 2020. The film came out 13 years ago. And even then, the story of a brave young rat who dreams of becoming a Michelin-starred chef wasn’t a guaranteed success. Rats in a kitchen are a tough sell even when animated to be fluffy and adorable. The film was revered by film critics for its heartwarming story and foodies for its loyalty to the restaurant kitchen experience. (Thomas Keller was an advisor to the film, and Anthony Bourdain named it the best film ever made about the food world. ) Throughout the history of Pixar content, franchises like Toy Story and existential dramas like Inside Out Ratatouille overshadowed.
But the film debuted in 2007 when Gen Z was having the highest consumption of Disney content. Ratatouille has had a nostalgic influence on the same generation that are now dependent on TikTok. History also took root this year with a new group of home cooks, whose ranks have grown over the course of the pandemic. At the beginning of the quarantine, people stuck at home began to produce cooking videos on TikTok – sometimes beautiful montages, sometimes ironically staged videos of kitchen accidents – based on the melody of « Le Festin » from the film’s soundtrack.
And its themes have found particular resonance with TikTok’s Theater Children subsection. « To be honest, when I saw it as a kid, I wasn’t a huge fan, » Jacobsen says. “It wasn’t until I was an adult that the story about creativity and collaboration really spoke to me. ”
Remi the Rat has a perfect palette, but his family is content with nibbling on trash. Worse still, when he steps into a restaurant kitchen in his hometown of Paris, chefs jump on their stations and shout “Rat!” The culinary world seems completely inaccessible to him just because of his life station. He eventually teams up with Linguini, a hopeless line chef who urgently needs a draw instruction. Remi crawls under Linguini’s chef’s hat and makes him a great fame.
Michael Breslin and Patrick Foley, who lead a Brooklyn-based theater company called Fake Friends and made a splash with their critically acclaimed virtual production of their Circle Jerk this fall, co-wrote the book for Ratatouille: The Musical. They combine draw fight with the young creative trying to gain fame on TikTok. « It’s a great combination of form and content, » says Breslin. “Ratatouille is about a young chef or artist who wants to make a name for himself in the world and has few tools to do it. But he has a lot of ambition and talent and is successful in the face of the establishment. He’s taking a new path that makes a lot of sense, what’s going on with TikTok right now. ”
Jacobsen, a die-hard Disney fanatic, read obsessively about the new attractions planned for the company’s theme parks, including a ratatouille ride. She dreamed of walking through a crowd again and sitting next to strangers on a roller coaster. Trapped in this flight of fantasy, she began to write: “Remy, the Ratatouille, the rat of all my dreams / I praise you, oh Ratatouille, may the world remember your name. ”
The composer Mertzlufft also came to TikTok as a distraction. He created his account back in February but didn’t open the app until after the pandemic. « In the first few days of quarantine, all the news everywhere was so bad, » he says. “I would open Facebook and it would be annoying. I would open Twitter and it would be annoying. I found that TikTok was the only place I could actually find some escapism and not think a bit about how terrible the world is. After Mertzlufft found the fame of Avatar the Last Airbender on the Internet: The TikTok Musical and Grocery Store: The Musical for TikTok, he came across Jacobsen’s song. He gave it « full Broadway treatment, » added an orchestration and what sounded like a choir to accompany Jacobsen’s song: in fact, it was only Mertzlufft and his friend who was recorded 15 times.
Other songs, written for various scenes and characters in the film, flooded the platform, including some by Christian, the NYU student who initially began creating content for TikTok in hopes of getting through one Pandemic rut to free. He felt that creations for TikTok had little stake since the videos were limited to one minute. « For full-length songs to be good, you need about three good ideas, » he says. “But with a TikTok song, you really only need one. ”
As his following grew into the tens of thousands, he began to invest more time and effort in his songs, particularly a number of ballads he wrote for the imaginary Ratatouille musical. Christian sang in character, swung pots and pans when he played one of the cooks or put on a scarf to imitate the sophisticated food critic from the film Anton Ego: “Creators I really admire followed me back and I thought, oh hello ! And the songs started to be successful outside of TikTok. At that point, I started referring to myself as the TikTok creator. ”
In the two and a half months since Jacobsen, Mertzlufft, and Christian posted their Ratatouille videos, more than 250 million people have engaged with Ratatouille music content on TikTok. That caught the attention of Broadway. After the theaters closed and the Tony Awards postponed, Jeremy O. . Harris kept his time falling into the rabbit hole of the TikTok theater when he saw the viral « Ratatousical » and alerted Nobile. Nobile jumped in, recruiting all three developers and dozens of other professionals and young TikTok content creators to collaborate on production.
Now theater veterans from New York and London have largely done the job of creating a cohesive performance out of the disparate contributions to TikTok, but Jacobsen says Seaview consulted with her and the original creators on an ongoing basis to ensure that the play remains true to their original vision. In the meantime, the TikTok developers have started a group chat to keep each other updated on the musical’s progress and play various rat-related word games. « Honestly, I was surprised that Disney gave the go-ahead, » Jacobsen says. “Everything went much better than I could ever have imagined. I’ve left most of the work to the real professionals, but you can see I show up in some surprisingly special ways. ”
Disney has a long history on Broadway. Adaptations of films like The Lion King, Frozen, and Aladdin make billions of dollars in ticket sales, even more than the original films make in theaters. The company drove the « Disney Fication » of Times Square and drove the transformation of the once run-down area into a colored tourist trap for better or for worse. Nobile, who works outside the Disney machine, believed that converting an already popular TikTok musical into a real production would be an obvious win: the show would have a built-in audience of hundreds of millions of people.
Nobile has long feared that Broadway would be compromised by its own financial and geographic constraints: audiences are limited, as is the talent pool. “How can we make radical inclusion more sustainable? Our office has worked to develop new audiences and find new creative voices that go beyond Juilliard’s students, ”he says. “A viral musical on TikTok did both without trying. ”
He called Thomas Schumacher, longtime director of Disney Theatrical, to get permission to put on a show when Disney had nothing in the works. « From my point of view, we are in this terrible moment where Broadway has been shut down for longer than ever before in history, » says Nobile. « And we have to be innovative about the way we work on the other side. » of this. “Disney was historically valuable in terms of its intellectual property, but Schumacher gave his blessings.
Nobile immediately called Breslin and Foley, who, after Circle Jerk, were better equipped than most playwrights to navigate the virtual stage. A week later, they sent him a treatment of the material that turned into the book of the musical. Mertzlufft, who acts as the music supervisor, wrote background music for dialogues that he had not yet seen. Within two weeks of Seaview’s announcement, an orchestra was recording in various studios. « I would say that this is the fastest Broadway-quality show ever put together, » says Mertzlufft. He was up until 3 a.m.. m. on Christmas morning with the orchestrator, music director and mixer for production who mixes the sound via a zoom call. They sent the final edition of the Finale song – a mashup that brings in all of the undercurrents of songs throughout the show – to Jacobsen soon after. « I don’t know if it’s exhaustion or joy or both, but tears rolled when I heard all these different parts come together, » she says.
The casting was quick as there are few productions that take up the actors’ time. The play will be live action and the actors have recorded their performances in isolation in their homes. Andrew Barth Feldman, who was told his whole life looked like the Ratatouille guy, will play the part of linguini for Titus Burgess’ Remy. Filming scenes alone can be unsettling.
« I actually have this Remy stuffed animal that I must have bought when I was on a trip to Disney World as a kid in 2007 or 2008, » says Barth Feldman. “I was struggling to connect to the dialogue, so I put it on the floor and gave him the whole scene. ”
Moss, who lives in England, works up to odd hours of the night to communicate with her mostly American-based team and bring all of these disparate pieces together into one cohesive piece of art. The process was a trial and error. « We spent a lot of time figuring out crazy ways to solve the perspective problem, » says Moss, pointing to a conundrum that puzzled TikTok and old Broadway hats alike. Ratatouille the film plays a rat-sized rat and a human-sized human. On stage, it’s hard to imagine how to convey this scale, especially considering that Remi spends much of the film under Linguini’s chef’s hat. Moss and her team looked at some of the suggestions made by TikTok’s creatives: puppets, multi-level stages with rats on top and people below, gigantic props that could be carried on stage when the story shifted into Draw’s perspective. « And after all that, we found that we didn’t have time to film on stage, and apart from a little camera angle, we don’t really have to deal with that problem, » says Moss.
Fans shouldn’t hope that Ratatouille finds its way to an actual stage after the pandemic. Disney and Seaview have made it clear that this is a one-off project designed to raise enough money to keep Broadway alive during the COVID-19 crisis. Disney has no plans to officially customize it. Maybe it would be too difficult to create a musical from a narrative film instead of one with songs like Frozen already built in. Perhaps the irony of presenting singing rats in the middle of Times Square doesn’t fit the Disney brand.
But TikTok musicals may still have a place on Broadway. Nobile, a strong Broadway producer, sees this musical as a new pipeline of talent. « We’re now in talks with a 17-year-old artist in Colorado who’s writing songs for it and a young girl in New Zealand who’s working on the production – people we would probably never have found otherwise. » he says. “Now we have the opportunity to ask you: ‘What else would you like to do? Beyond that, how can we do things together? «
And while Moss himself has his hands full when Broadway reopens and her musical offers Six for a Tony. But she and the others working on Ratatouille: The Musical don’t believe the end of the pandemic will mean the end of Broadway’s collaboration with TikTok. “Because of the conversations I had last month, some producers are excited about the idea of a TikTok musical because it creates its own audience, so to speak,” says Moss. “People are involved and want it to happen. ”
Ratatouille, Tituss Burgess, Musiktheater, Adam Lambert, TikTok
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