Certainly musical theatre industry workers were some of the many whose worlds changed in 2020.
Early on in the pandemic, we watched Broadway shut down, and it has stayed dark. Actors and creators who had spent their lives fighting for their big breaks found themselves back where they started, at home. The show did not go on.
Like every other form of art during this pandemic, musical theatre has slowly, shakily attempted to go digital. A Zoom live show has nothing on actual live theatre, of course — part of live theatre's magic is being in the room, close to the stage, hearing the rustle of the curtain and feeling the lights — but still, creators tried ever more innovative approaches to interactive theatre.
Surprisingly, the greatest developments in musical theatre in 2020 have come from...TikTok. Using the platform, over the course of months, a select few creators wrote an entire musical based on the charming Pixar film Ratatouille — which is now about to be staged (online, of course) by Broadway performers themselves.
The swankified Broadway musical, which will be performed as a concert, consists of 11 original songs, 10 of which were born on TikTok. It stars Dear Evan Hansen's Andrew Barth Feldman as aspiring chef Alfredo Linguini. Titus Burgess will play Remy the rat, Adam Lambert will play Linguini's older brother, Emile; Kevin Chamberlin will play master chef Gusteau; and Hadestown's Andre DeShields will play curmudgeonly food critic Anton Ego.
The show will begin streaming on January 1st and will be available for 72 hours. Proceeds from the show will be donated to The Actors' Fund, which benefits members of the entertainment community in need.
We're kicking off 2021 with Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical! We're partnering with amazing @TikTok creators & some… https://t.co/KoeuXs1dJE— ThisIsSeaview (@ThisIsSeaview)1607544277.0
The whole thing began when 26-year-old Emily James, a teacher from New York, posted a song based on Ratatouille on TikTok. Her ode to Remy from Ratatouille went viral. Then composer Daniel Mertzlufft added orchestrations to James' song. Others were inspired, sometimes writing songs, sometimes orchestrating and sometimes singing them.
There's a ballad for master chef Gusteau called "Anyone Can Cook." There's a tango duet for Linguini and Emile. Then choreographers leapt in, and the musical began to take shape. A user named Shoebox Musicals created a fake set, and a puppeteer named Brandon Hardy designed costumes. A designer name Jess Siswick created a playbill. A star was born.
We Started The TikTok Ratatouille Musical www.youtube.com
The efforts caught the attention of Seaview, a Broadway theatre organization, and they saw a potential benefit event in the works. But the upcoming concert isn't the end of Ratatouille: The Musical. The songs are being adapted into a libretto by writers Michael Breslin and Patrick Foley, and perhaps at the end of all this, Ratatouille will find itself performed on a real Broadway stage. Fortunately, according to The Observer, TikTok songwriters Emily Jacobsen, R.J. Christian, Acacia Pressley, Blake Rouse, and Daniel Mertzlufft are being credited for their works.
Ratatouille: The Musical (AKA Ratatousical) is far from TikTok's only musical theatre creation. Since the beginning of the pandemic, TikTok users have been working tirelessly to create an Avatar: The Last Airbender musical, and hundreds of songs exist on the app. Teens Kathrine Lynn Rose and Joshua Turchin both began writing Avatar: The Last Airbender musicals early in the pandemic, posting their compositions on TikTok, and the two even began collaborating, inspiring others to pick up the pen.
THIS 17 YEAR OLD GIRL IS MAKING AN ENTIRE AVATAR THE LAST AIRBENDER MUSICAL ON TIKTOK?! OH MY GOD?!! follow @ kathe… https://t.co/VpnmPHhlwc— Klaudia Amenábar (@Klaudia Amenábar)1594849174.0
Musical theatre TikTok is a wellspring of endless creativity. One creator, Lauren Hillani, has been turning songs from the musical Hamilton into Avatar-themed, illustrated masterpieces.
@laurenhiilani Ok but this one had to be part 10 ##atla ##avatar ##hamilton ##broadway ##musicaltheatre ##avatarthelastairbender ##zuko ##azula ##katara ##fyp ##xyzbca
♬ original sound - Lauren Hi'ilani
Another creator Daniel Mertzlufft, who was responsible for orchestrating some of Ratatouille, is creating a wellspring of TikTok musical content. He created a musical theatre song called "Grocery Store But from a Modern Musical Theatre Show," which inspired many knockoffs and duets. He also composed an original song called Thanksgiving: The Musical forThe Late Show With James Corden, and Mertzlufft was stunned to see his original song sung to dysfunctional Thanksgiving family perfection by Patti LuPone, Kristin Chenoweth, Audra McDonald, Josh Gad and Josh Groban.
Thanksgiving: The TikTok Musical -- Full Segment www.youtube.com
And of course, TikTok creators have shared their boundless musical creativity. There are musical theatre songs about New York City mornings, and even musical theatre songs about musicals about TikTok in 2030.
Huge fan communities offer endless tributes to their favorite musicals, which include Heathers and Hamilton. Duets and improv challenges are very popular, and watching it all, you kind of get the feeling that there's a creative renaissance going on.
Of course, being in the performing arts has never been an easy task, so TikTok also offers helpful songs about what to do to avoid telling people you're an actor at all.