Commentary: Why TikTok’s ‘Ratatouille’ experiment is the way forward for musical theater

Commentary: Why TikTok’s ‘Ratatouille’ experiment is the future of musical theater

A standout second of the 2007 film “Ratatouille,” a couple of rat who groups with a human to realize his culinary desires, comes when cynical restaurant critic Anton Ego is served the titular meals. Although he’s initially confused by the providing in a former five-star eatery — one chef calls the standard plate of stewed greens “a peasant dish” — the first bite transports the critic again to his childhood, and he unabashedly gobbles the remainder of it up in glee.

I had the identical, pleasantly shocked response whereas watching “Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical,” a digital proof-of-concept live performance amongst TikTok customers and Broadway creatives that advantages the Actors Fund and is funded partly by Lowe’s. (Sure, you learn that accurately.)

The implausible collaboration got here to be after followers impressed by the Pixar film spent months posting unique songs — an earworm about the lead character, Remy; a theme song for chef Gusteau; a tango between Linguini and Colette — in addition to movies imagining almost each component of a completely staged model: choreography, costume design, Playbill cover art, makeup design and extra.

Seaview Productions (“Slave Play” and “Sea Wall/A Life”), director Lucy Moss (“Six”) and e-book writers Michael Breslin and Patrick Foley (“Circle Jerk”) jumped on board; Adam Lambert, Priscilla Lopez, Mary Testa, Owen Tabaka and Andrew Barth Feldman joined the forged.

Even Disney didn’t thoughts the fan fiction: “Though we wouldn’t have improvement plans for the title, we love when our followers interact with Disney tales,” the corporate stated in a press release. “We applaud and thank the entire on-line theater makers for serving to to learn the Actors Fund on this unprecedented time of want.”

As somebody used to feasting on Tony Award-winning performances in million-dollar industrial productions, I braced myself for this much-lower-budget presentation that includes footage shot by actors of their properties and songs crowdsourced on social media. However by the tip of the Broadway Sinfonietta’s overture and Kevin Chamberlin’s opening quantity — full with a cancan kick line! — my skepticism for the scrappy experiment had waned.

Kevin Chamberlin, dressed in chef whites, plays Gusteau in the "Ratatouille" musical.

Kevin Chamberlin, middle, performs Gusteau within the “Ratatouille” musical.


For instance, I used to be bowled over by Wayne Brady, who as Remy’s father Django, painted whiskers on his face and tucked rat ears into his beanie to carry out “Trash Is Our Treasure”; Ashley Park, who as fellow chef Colette, introduced punchy spice and a flawless French accent to “Kitchen Tango”; and Tituss Burgess, who as Remy, vocally and emotionally soared on the tender “I Need” track “Bear in mind My Title.” With none slick units, naturalistic props or costars who’re even in the identical room, their playful performances had been nonetheless so ingenious and filled with story — theater, at its core. This ragtag aesthetic might not be for everybody — why do solely a number of the actors enjoying rat characters put on ears? — however its free and straightforward spirit finally labored for me.

The standard of a dish like that is solely pretty much as good as its substances — on this case, the songs, which genuinely have a good time the compositional conventions of musical theater and animated Disney motion pictures, and which really feel as in the event that they’re written by those that actually love them. They’re every earnest and pleasant, and brimming with character, humor and emotion — the profitable mixture on which essentially the most established composers have constructed their careers. (It doesn’t matter that the lyric that began all of it — “Remy, the ratatouille, the rat of all my desires” — doesn’t even make sense as a result of its hook is infectious and shall be caught in your head for days.)

Due to the democratic nature of social media, these talented, mostly Gen Z songwriters from everywhere in the world have bypassed the business’s establishments and gatekeepers to get their work heard, and now professionally produced. Although the songs have totally different writers, the rating is altogether cohesive because of Daniel Mertzlufft, who expanded on and offered its musical preparations. Breslin and Foley’s e-book — peppered with references to “Les Misérables,” “A Refrain Line,” “Hire,” “Cats” and “Six” — has Burgess summarizing what viewers already know from the film, arguably to permit the songs to be the star.

Some of the TikTok users who created the "Ratatouille" musical.

A number of the TikTok customers who created the “Ratatouille” musical: clockwise, from left: Blake Rouse, Nathan Fosbinder, Emily Jacobsen, Sophia James, James Penca and Katie Johantgen, Daniel Mertzlufft, RJ Christian and Gabbi Bolt.


Why is that this light-weight, not-even-an-hour-long fundraiser necessary? In a time when phases stay darkish and the business has begun to query which writers are given a fair chance, I hope this undertaking serves as encouragement to each theater creators and followers too accustomed to superstar to hunt out and embrace its undiscovered voices. The expertise is there; the work is simply pretty much as good. And with the preliminary TikTok movies getting a collective 200 million views and the stream’s pay-as-you-can ticket gross sales elevating greater than $1 million to date, the viewers is hungry.

“The world can typically be unkind to new expertise, new creations — the brand new wants associates,” stated André De Shields as Anton Ego in an abridged model of the film’s iconic monologue. “Final night time, I skilled one thing new, a rare meal from a equally surprising supply. I now know not anybody can prepare dinner, however an excellent prepare dinner can come from wherever.”

Watching the manufacturing’s curtain name, with the songwriters taking a digital bow alongside their actor counterparts, I couldn’t assist however agree.

‘Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical’

The place: TodayTix
When: four p.m. PT Friday (obtainable till Monday)
Ranking: appropriate for all ages

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