Starting in October, thousands of TikTok developers who were bored at home and missed Broadway were creating elements of a never-before-seen show: a musical based on Disney Pixar’s “Ratatouille,” an animated film about a rat with culinary ambitions.
In 60-second increments, people contributed their own songs, dances, makeup looks, sets, puppets and Playbill programs inspired by the 2007 film. Without a guide, the virtual show organically materialized from a crowd-sourced jumble of content.
It was a musical like no other. Many creators thought there was a long way to go before it could merge in real life. But on Friday at 7pm Eastern Time, “Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical” will take shape as a virtual benefit performance, with Tituss Burgess appearing as Remy the rat. Around 80,000 tickets have already been sold for the pre-filmed show by Seaview Productions in order to raise money for the Actors Fund. It can be streamed for three days.
The musical more or less follows the plot of the film: Remy, who is blessed with a refined palate, teaches the lowly kitchen worker Alfredo Linguini to cook by hiding under the hat of his chef. Linguini rises to the top of his restaurant in Paris only to be judged by the authoritative critic Anton Ego.
We spoke with its creators about the challenges of making a virtual show out of TikTok segments that have been adapted from films. These conversations have been edited and condensed for the sake of clarity.
Andrew Barth Feldman
The actor who was in Dear Evan Hansen and played Alfredo Linguini.
How did you come to this?
My friend Nathan asked me to sing one of the songs on TikTok. People have told me that I’ve looked like this character for years. I love the movie and I always felt that this character resonated with me. I think we’re both generally fearful people with an undying optimism. He’s awkward in a cartoonish fashion and so intrepid in what he does. He has a passion for wanting to please everyone. The nervousness coupled with the optimism feels a lot to me.
How long have you been rehearsing?
This is the fastest turnaround on a Broadway show I’ve ever seen in my life. The first conversation must have been three weeks ago. It all moved so fast. It’s all a big time.
What is a challenge in presenting a show online?
It’s funny because we do it remotely. I don’t look at any of these people. There was a point when it was the end of the day and I was having problems. I found this Remy stuffed animal I have and switched it off the camera to film the scene – to feel the use of the story and remind myself that it was a rat controlling a hat.
André De Shields
The actor who was on “The Wiz” and played Anton Ego.
Any similarities between you and Anton?
There was no time to research so I had to trust the casting director who said, “This is for you. We want you to do that. “I haven’t seen the film, but if you play Anton Ego, who is that snooty food critic, you find out that he turned his nose up at the ratatouille that is served to him in the restaurant. You learn that is how he grew up. This is what his mother gave him as a child. If he tries the ratatouille, he goes back to his childhood. You see, he has worn a mask all his life and all he needed was a reminder of how happy he was as an ordinary kid.
How is this show different from live shows on stage?
We don’t improvise very much in the theater because we have to write a script and everyone expects you to say what’s in the written thing. In terms of the distance between all employees involved, we used this spontaneous inspiration when something didn’t come out exactly right. There is no mistake in jazz. They say, “That’s what I meant to do, now the rest of you will follow.” That is what “Ratatouille” is all about.
The director who previously co-directed and co-wrote Six: The Musical.
What was your vision for the show?
The really interesting thing about the original TikTok materials and submissions is that the pursuit has been so great. Even though people had a state of the art format and the Gen-Z thing of the world, they aspired to be like a classic musical. The challenge of doing this in the least theatrical space of all time – online – was to stay true to this claim. The goal is a zoom reading or an online concert where 20 Red Bulls were drunk and spat on the screen.
The music supervisor and arranger who wrote some of the “Ratatouille” songs.
Tell me about your role on the show.
Basically, my job was to take the nine songs we pulled from TikTok and create some sort of story and a full cohesive score. That was the challenge because some of the songs are only a minute long and we had to expand them. We had to write new songs to fill in some places. We wrote part of a new opening number and an “I want song” where the character sings what they want and hopefully they get it.
What was your biggest challenge?
I had my first meeting with the Seaview folks on December 4th. They called me and said, “Hey, we have this crazy idea. Disney has given us permission to give a benefit to the Ratatouille Actors Fund. “They said,” Yes, we want to do this on January 1st. “I took a deep breath and said,” Yes, that is possible. “
We all worked around the clock for the first few weeks of December to end all of this. It was a return to normal for theater and collaboration. Although the deadline was insane, of course I said yes. Who besides theater people can meet such insane deadlines? I would do a song every day. These are months, if not years, of work we did in two weeks. Although it was a challenge, I loved mixing songs until 3am on Christmas morning. We all missed the feeling.
The set designer who works as a photographer.
Tell me about your shoeboxes.
“Ratatouille” takes place in Paris. So how can I create a Parisian backdrop for an actual stage? How can I create different drops for different scenes?
The very first set model “Ratatouille” that I released [on TikTok] and designed a set for, I came up with the idea of a picture from Pinterest. It was just a silhouette of Linguini in a chef’s hat, and it had a shadow of Remy. I took this, cut it out, and lit it with projections. Then I made sure the hat was transparent so Remy could come in from behind, and then all of the set construction began. It’s crazy to take another look at these TikToks and see where I’ve been and where I am now.
This event really highlights a lot of the TikTok developers and we are very happy to have received this recognition. We can take our content and do something good with it, not only raising money for the show, but also making sure that Broadway comes back stronger than ever.