How TikTok united to cook up a “Ratatouille” musical

Social media holds the immense potential to influence masses of unique individuals. Unfortunately, this power is often wasted on creating divisions and spreading negativity. Still, it has its moments on the opposite side of the spectrum, where it unites and brings joy into the lives of hundreds of thousands. On Aug. 10, TikToker user Emily Jacobsen (@e_jaccs) posted an original love ballad to Remy, the leading rat of the beloved Disney/Pixar movie, “Ratatouille.” Though the song itself is only a mere 15 seconds in length, its effect has been tremendous. With over 18,000 TikToks featuring the song, Jacobsen’s high pitch singing of the lyrics “Remy, the Ratatouille, the rat of all my dreams…” dominated the “For You Page” for weeks. However, this marked only the beginning of TikTok’s obscure fascination with cooking up music inspired by the beloved movie.

In Oct., Daniel Mertzlufft (@danieljmertzlufft), a musical composer and avid TikToker user, had friends sing snippets of Jacobsen’s ballad and compiled their voices into a choir-like performance. He posted the new rendition of the song onto TikTok, featuring text describing the scene he envisioned would pair with it in a real performance. Like the original, Mertzlufft’s TikTok was almost an instant success, unintentionally inspiring thousands of others. Soon, creators from varying theatrical and creative backgrounds banded together to contribute their own ideas for a hypothetical Ratatouille musical. Anything from original songs to wardrobe and set designs could be found under the Ratatouille hashtag. Even well-known performers such as Kevin Chamberlin, a Tony Award nominee, joined in on the excitement and posted himself singing an original song as the character Gusteau, foreshadowing the greatness that was yet to come. Though at the time, this only seemed to be a creative outlet to alleviate quarantine boredom, the reality of a Ratatouille musical was progressively becoming more attainable.

On Dec. 9, it was announced that “Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical” would be receiving its very own concert presentation. Lucy Moss, best known for directing “Six”, accepted the daunting challenge of developing the online musical in less than a month. Beyond the short-time frame, the barrier of using an almost purely virtual workspace brought unique difficulties. Using the snippets of songs posted on TikTok, Moss arranged ten songs, along with an original number written by Merzlufft, who became the show’s music director. To keep the show true to its Tikok origins, the musical production partnered with many other of the original creators, who have been credited and given the rights to their work.

“[TikTok creators are] the Remys, making it all happen,” the Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical’s website reads. “We’re just a bunch of Linguinis.”

The long-awaited performance finally made its debut on New Years Day. Andrew Barth Feldman starred as Linguini, Ashley Park played Colette Tatou, and Titus Burgess took on the iconic role of Remy. Other beloved performers such as Adam Lambert, Kevin Chamberlin, and Wayne Brady filled the main cast. Over 200,000 purchased tickets to view the show from the comfort of their home. “Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical” has received primarily positive reviews, many complimenting the incredible talent and perseverance showcased in the cast. The musical provided nearly an hour of entertainment, and considering tickets costs were as low as $5, it was significantly more cost-efficient than typical theatrical performances. Following its 72-hour run, a free encore performance was streamed on where it all started: TikTok. With an additional 150,000 tuning into the TikTok showing, Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical had over 350,000 viewers during its brief, but powerful run, raising over 2 million dollars. All proceeds from the performance have been donated to The Actors Fund, a charity supporting the financial needs of workers in the theatre industry who are jobless during the pandemic.

This past year has undoubtedly been tough for many. With so much negativity, many of which are centered on social media, it is inspiring to see strangers use it to form an unofficial alliance dedicated to bringing joy into these difficult times. “Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical” extended a much-needed hand to hundreds of thousands, whether that be the supportive viewers, the diligent content creators, or those receiving assistance from its proceeds. Though it started as a silly TikTok meme, the musical evolved into an incredible end result, and will ideally become a role model for future online trends.