TikTok trend gives a taste of live theatre amidst pandemic.
By Abigail Jarvis
When the doors to theaters closed last spring, a new door for theatrical opportunity opened online. In August 2020, TikTok user Emily Jacobsen (@e_jaccs) created a song to celebrate Remy the Rat from Disney’s 2007 animated film “Ratatouille.” The song took off on TikTok and started a trend that entertained social media users throughout quarantine. Users with differing levels of theatrical experience conceptualized sets, playbills, puppets, costumes, songs, lighting and sound designs, skits, scripts, and choreography for the hypothetical production.
On Jan. 1, the imaginations of TikTok creators became a reality- a full cast, crew, and orchestra brought to life a live-streamed virtual performance that featured aspects of the trend that had gained the most attention. “Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical” also made history by being Broadway’s first crowdsourced musical. The event’s proceeds were donated to The Actor’s Fund, an organization that has been supporting individuals in the performing arts industry since 1882. The event raised 2 million dollars for the charity.
The star-studded cast included big Broadway names such as André De Shields (“Hadestown”) as Anton Ego, Andrew Barth Fieldman (“Dear Evan Hansen”) as Linguini, Tituss Burgess (“The Little Mermaid”) as Remy, Ashley Park (“Mean Girls”) as Colette, and Keven Chamberlin (“Seussical,” Disney Channel) as Chef Gusteau. Other notable cast members were Wayne Brady, Adam Lambert, and JJ Niemann (@jjniemann).
“Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical” was composed of recorded clips, each filmed in the cast members’ individual homes. The clips were edited together and live-streamed on Jan. 1, and again on Jan. 2, for an encore performance. Since the show was limited to the cast members at-home settings and technologies, the show was not of Hollywood caliber, like the recently released filmed musicals of “Hamilton” or “The Prom.”
These aspects, however, did not deter audiences, nor take away from the quality of the production. The event was fun and appropriate for audience members of all ages, staying true to the original nature of the Disney story. Often, the settings crucial to the story, such as the sewers, kitchens, and Paris skylines, were created with photograph rendered backgrounds. Though appearing unrealistic, this scenery in a way paid homage to the original medium of TikTok and represented the popular green screen effect on the app.
Altogether, the event was entertaining and can simply be described as joyful. It was clear that all involved in the production had fun while creating a good show for a good cause. “Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical” was a refreshing reminder of what is possible with today’s technology, and a sweet reminder of the talents of Broadway professionals.