From TikTok trend to Broadway, ‘Ratatouille: The Musical’ makes waves in the theater world

Shiphrah Moses

Almost a year ago, Broadway closed its doors. 

Shows I had dreamt of seeing were closing left and right. My favorite actors were posting compilations of their favorite memories to Instagram. It has been a sad time for the theater community. 

But while Broadway is still dark, the online musical has found its way into the light, and with the concurrent rise of the social media app, TikTok, “Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical” was born.

“Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical” is unlike any other musical before it. On Aug. 10, TikTok content creator Emily Jacobsen uploaded a clip to TikTok as part of a series in which she composed and sang odes to different fictional characters. This particular clip was an ode to Remy, the main character of the Pixar film, “Ratatouille”.

It garnered a good bit of attention, but it wasn’t until composer and TikTok content creator Daniel Mertzlufft’s version of the song that things really started to pick up. In his version, Mertzlufft transformed the simple ode into a full blown orchestration, adding instrumentation and background vocals which turned it into a song worthy of a Broadway finale. 

Mertzlufft’s revision sparked the imagination of thousands of TikTok users. Original songs were written, costume and set designs were drawn up and dance numbers were choreographed. By this time, the concept of “Ratatouille” as a musical had become a trend on TikTok, racking up millions of views and likes with plenty of support for it’s fruition. 

“I thought the videos were pretty cool,” junior Alexandra Pulido said about the trend.

Finally, on Dec. 9, the announcement was made: “Ratatouille” would be made into an online musical and streamed on Jan. 1 as a fundraiser for The Actors Fund, a charitable organization working to support performing arts professionals. As more details rolled out, it was learned that the show would be directed by Lucy Moss, creator of Six: The Musical of which many of its songs had gained TikTok notoriety prior this new project and produced by Jeremy O. Harris, creator of “Slave Play”, along with many others. 

The cast was packed with Broadway stars, from seasoned professionals such as André De Shields to newcomers like Andrew Barth Feldman and JJ Niemann. Most notably, the musical would feature the compositions of the already beloved songs that were made by TikTok users themselves. 

Watching the show, it is clear that the songs first made popular on TikTok were the true stars of the show. While each song was written by a different person, all of them came together to form a cohesive and memorable performance. The show was a true display of the synergistic character of TikTok, adopted by Broadway professionals and brought together to produce a masterpiece. 

“I think that it was a fun way to get people involved in a project online,” junior Richa Prabhakar said. “ I also thought it was cool how different people were adding in things in their own way,”.

The show also sets a precedent for the theater industry. Most Broadway musicals are written and composed by professionals who have had years of experience and gone through costly training. With “Ratatouille”, the show was entirely composed by TikTok users. While most had some degree of musical training, none were near the stature of those who would typically be found in the writer’s room of a million dollar musical.

“This is a remarkable testament to the creative collaborative power of the internet and TikTok,” director and choreographer Brandon Powers wrote on Twitter.A high schooler wrote this song and now Adam Lambert from Queen is singing it in concert produced by Broadway producers with Disney’s permission.”

“Ratatouille: The Musical” also made huge strides in terms of accessibility. Since the show was put together through film, it was able to be streamed and accessed by people from every corner of the world. Tickets were acquired through donation, the minimum being $5, making it financially accessible as well.

“I think now that it’s not such a high-end luxury where tickets are like ninety bucks, not everyone can do that, most people have access to YouTube or to a computer where they can watch theater, so it does make it more accessible,” drama teacher Laura Woods said.

While it may be a long time before Broadway fans are able to experience a musical or a play in person, it is a comfort to know that theatre can still be enjoyed from our own homes. As fans wait for the lights of Broadway to go up, they can curl up on the couch and light up their screens. 

The theater is closer than you may think.