Arthur Nicolle

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Lockdown and a love for theatre: the ingredients for a brand new musical

Back on March 12th, 2020, Broadway theatres had to shut their doors as a result of the rise of the Covid-19 pandemic.
It struck every Broadway and theatre fan in New York, as well as around the world. Indeed, Broadway theatres hardly ever closed their doors in the past. With casts and crews putting on eight shows a week, only unexpected circumstances ended up canceling shows.
Before the pandemic induced shutdown of Broadway, the last one happened back on July 13th, 2019 due to a power outage, leaving only a few theatres with shows such as “Beetlejuice” or “Be More Chill” being unaffected thanks to their geographical position, away from where the power turned off.
However, the first major shutdown of Broadway occurred after the events of September 11th, 2001. The only difference: this first shutdown lasted only three days, whereas the current 2020 shutdown has been lasting ever since and through 2021 so far.

After months of closure, starved Broadway theatre fans around the world had to find new ways to express themselves and practice this form of art they love so much. The perfect platform for it: Tiktok.

This new social media similar to what Vine did in the past allows its users to post short videos which they can browse through their “For You Page”, the main menu of the Tiktok app. Thanks to an algorithm analyzing the content users like as well as their general interests, the “For You Page” will show content perfectly fitted to their tastes.
And so, theatre fans started appearing on each others’ “For You Page”, singing covers of their favorite musicals, or sometimes even original pieces.

On August 11th, 2020, a Tiktok user going by the name of @e_jaccs posted a video on her Tiktok account, which would soon be the start of a brand new creativity-filled trend.
In her video, she made an ode to Remy the rat from the 2007 Pixar movie “Ratatouille”: a weird little song with a high-pitched voice in which she sang “Remy, the ratatouille, the rat of all my dreams.”

After being used for a while to make fun of weird Remy goodies found by the app’s users, Tiktok user @danieljmertzlufft took @e_jaccs’s sound to another level by making a musical theatre arrangement of it.

This new take on the funny little song which was being used as part of one of the Tiktok 2020 trends, as well as a craving to see a Ratatouille musical come to life inspired other Tiktok content creators to bring their own take to what a Ratatouille musical could sound like.
Henceforth, a brand new movement started among musical theatre fans on the app, and many new songs were created. This sudden drive of creativity was also filled with sharing and caring, and seeing content creators helping each other with their songs, creating reprises or follow up songs to another creator’s work was a really wholesome experience to witness, especially during the pandemic, forcing isolation around the world.

Thanks to this brand new trend on the platform, theatre enthusiasts were able to convey their love for show tunes while practicing their singing, songwriting and dancing skills for others to enjoy.
However, those were not the only types of art and talent that came through with the trend. Some content creators went to the extremes of creating models of sets and stages, with fully functional lighting and props, or even a Ratatouille the Musical Playbill program, as it could’ve been sold in a real Broadway theatre.

And so the Ratatouille Tiktok Musical brought some much needed joy and laughter to millions of Tiktok users during the last months of 2020 as the content creators managed to recreate the magic of Broadway on their smartphones…

It could’ve stopped there, but be that as it may, the magic of the Ratatouille Tiktok Musical not only reached the users of the app through their little screens, but it also managed to actually reach Broadway!

Indeed, after some Broadway stars such as Kevin Chamberlain or Andrew Barth Feldman (who played Evan in Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway) took on the Tiktok trend, The Actors Fund (an organization providing safety for performers and art professionals) and Playbill (the musical theatre magazine producing programs for Broadway shows) teamed up to bring Ratatouille The Tiktok Musical to life.

Announced on the 9th of December 2020, they managed to gather a cast full of Broadway stars, as well as musicians in order to create an orchestration of the Tiktok creators’ original songs and managed to write the libretto and record the show in record time as the show was aired on January 1st, 2021.

The show was live-streamed on the TodayTix website and required a virtual ticket to be accessed. Sold through a “pay what you want” system, viewers around the world were able to donate as much as they wanted to see this Tiktok trend come to life, all of which benefited The Actors Fund entirely. Playbill also sold an actual program on their website, using the design created on Tiktok by @siswij, which sells also benefited the organization.

All in all, this event is the perfect example of the power of the arts, and how much society needs them. Instead of waiting for Broadway to reopen, and letting themselves be beaten by the gloominess of the Covid-19 pandemic, content creators from a social media app managed to create a trend so original and powerful, that their creation was ultimately recognized by actual Broadway workers. And so, Ratatouille The Tiktok Musical became a reality, and more than a simple funny internet trend, it ended up becoming a real phenomenon that also benefited the arts and its workers. As a matter of fact, over one million dollars were raised to benefit The Actors Fund.

As the wise Chef Gusteau once said: “anyone can cook”, and Tiktok users definitely showed that “anyone can create a musical”!…

Masters student at Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris. Aspiring Journalist. Animation, video games, Broadway and theme parks enthusiast. He/They pronouns.