Meet the Social Media Sensations Behind Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical

Special Features   Meet the Social Media Sensations Behind Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical
 
For these TikTok users, a quarantine pastime became the stuff that musical theatre dreams are made of.
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c/o O&M

In a turn of events that was unpredictable even in a year as full of surprises as 2020, Disney’s 2007 film Ratatouille is getting the (virtual) Broadway treatment—thanks to TikTok. What started in the fall with a few users posting songs they’d written for a hypothetical musical version of the animated movie escalated in a matter of weeks to a filmed concert presentation of Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical presented by Seaview Productions, complete with its very own Playbill. The star-studded event (featuring such Broadway names as Andrew Barth Feldman, Tituss Burgess, and André De Shields) will take place January 1 at 7 PM ET as a benefit for The Actors Fund.

Read below to find out what it was like for the artists who sourced the show’s basic ingredients on social media to find out their work would be getting a fully baked professional production.

READ: Bon Appétit! What to Eat as You Watch Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical

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Danny Bernstein

Danny K. Bernstein
What did you create for the show?
I wrote the music to “Ego’s Flashback” (as seen on Katie Jo’s TikTok). She sent me a few texts and a voice memo asking if I would do it, and I think I quickly recorded a piano part on GarageBand after playing an outdoor drag show at Don’t Tell Mama. And the rest, as they say, is history.

What was your first reaction upon hearing your work would be included in Ratatouille: A TikTok Musical?
I was very, very confused. I am still very confused. But I’m thrilled they’re compensating us. Never did I imagine the 20-30 minutes I spent quickly improvising some music on my keyboard would be at all lucrative.

If you were a Ratatouille character, who would you be?
I’ve…never actually seen Ratatouille all the way through, so I’m gonna say the Slinky Dog from Toy Story.

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Gabbi Bolt

Gabbi Bolt
What did you create for the show?
The song I wrote is a song for Remy’s dad (Django) called “Trash Is ur Treasure” (also known as “Good in the Garbage” or “The Life of a Rat”)

What was your first reaction upon hearing your work would be included in Ratatouille: A TikTok Musical?
I was absolutely stoked. I’m all the way over in Bathurst, Australia, so to know that my song is going to be given the Broadway treatment is absolutely a dream come true! It was a weird thing to tell people though, because from all the way over here it just sounds so unbelievable! My mum called me about three hours after I initially told her just to say, “Wait, sorry, Broadway?”

If you were a Ratatouille character, who would you be?
I would 100 percent be a rat, most likely Emile, because I feel like he and I would get along very well. (I can’t cook so I definitely wouldn’t be Remy.)

RJ Christian

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RJ Christian

What did you create for the show?
The song I wrote is called “Ratatouille,” and it’s sung by Anton Ego. One of the most emotionally intense moments of the film is when Anton eats the ratatouille, and I wanted to expand the moment around the bite and lock into his mental and emotional state to make that taste have more impact. I borrowed a lot harmonically from Stephen Sondheim while trying to keep the aesthetic of the original score by Michael Giacchino, and of course I had to make him a bass and give those money notes.

What was your first reaction upon hearing your work would be included in Ratatouille: A TikTok Musical?
At first, I didn’t know the scale of this project so it didn’t hit until I started to hear more and more about what it was. Now, I’m in disbelief. I feel so validated as a composer. Even though I’m about to graduate into a pandemic, it feels nice that the people who I’d want to hire me know my name.

If you were a Ratatouille character, who would you be?
There’s a background chef named Larousse, and all we learn about him is that he was a part of a resistance that didn’t win. That’s me.

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Nathan Fosbinder

Nathan Fosbinder
What did you create for the show?
I wrote an "I Want"-type song for Linguini, "Anyone Can Cook," in which Linguini desperately tries to convince Remy that cooking together can work. I definitely went a little "The Wizard and I" with a sprinkle of Legally Blonde while writing it. I'd also seen some fantasy TikTok casting floating around, and thought there would be no one better than my pal Andrew Barth Feldman, so I asked him, theoretically, if I were to write a song, would he sing it. The rest is Ratatouille history.

What was your first reaction upon hearing your work would be included in Ratatouille: A TikTok Musical?
I may have immediately texted "Andrew, the Ratatouille musical has gone too far, and I'm not mad about it." And honestly, I stand by that.

If you were a Ratatouille character, who would you be?
I feel like I'd be Emile. He's really just there to be supportive and eat good food. I feel that. That speaks to me.

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Emily Jacobsen

Emily Jacobsen
What did you create for the show?
Back in August of 2020 in the middle of quarantine, I was reading an article about the new Ratatouille ride coming to Disney World. This got the movie on my brain and I just started singing this little song to myself about the main character, Remy. I thought it was funny and particularly catchy so I decided to make a TikTok with it, adding some crazy visual effects and an altered cartoon voice to send to family and friends. It was just meant to give people a quick laugh. The song, “Ode to Remy,” sings the praises of the fictional rat from the Ratatouille movie calling him the “rat of all our dreams,” pleading “may the world remember his name,” and likening his eventual success to the success of his signature dish, ratatouille.

Composer and arranger Daniel Mertzlufft took my song and created a spellbinding musical theater version he called the “Act 2 Finale.” His interpretation added instruments, choir voices, choreography, stage notes, etc. It was so overwhelming that I almost cried when I heard it for the first time. That was the moment, between my original song and Daniel’s arrangement, that the Ratatouille musical movement was born.

What was your first reaction upon hearing your work would be included in Ratatouille: A TikTok Musical?
I couldn’t believe that the idea of creating a musical out of this trend was actually becoming a reality. I was truly honored to hear that my theme was going to be featured and brought to life. I am just so thrilled that the excitement can be put towards such a great cause. I have enjoyed many of the benefits for The Actors Fund over the past few months, and the idea that now my song is playing a small part in bringing one to life is so thrilling for me.

If you were a Ratatouille character, who would you be?
I think that I would be Anton Ego. Ego is extremely passionate about food and holds high standards in his position as restaurant critic. In my own life, I’m very passionate about the things I enjoy. I can also tend to be a perfectionist which I put towards lesson and unit planning in my job as an elementary school teacher. Similar to Ego, I have also learned in time that talent can be found in unlikely places. Even in my most challenging students, I look to find their hidden talents and expertise and encourage them to work to their full potential to reach success. However, unlike Ego for most of the film, I do think anyone can cook—with practice!

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Sophia James

Sophia James
What did you create for the show?
I wrote “I Knew I Smelled A Rat” (Skinner’s number) while procrastinating an essay I had to write for school (shoutout to UCLA). It’s sort of a classic jazzy musical theatre villain number; it’s got a heavy swing and tons of room for dance breaks. It reflects the moment that Skinner realizes that Remy has been the chef all along (a nod to one of my favorite lines in the movie: “*gasp* The rat is the cook!”). The song is essentially Skinner’s joyous explosion of revenge after having mounds of pent up frustration from having to basically give his career away to Linguini. Or it’s a silly rat song. Either description works.

What was your first reaction upon hearing your work would be included in Ratatouille: A TikTok Musical?
I don’t know what it feels like to experience the endless joy of seeing your child succeed in life...but I imagine it’s something like this. I think the things we create can be kind of like children: some are quiet and honest, some are kind of annoying, some are sociable and popular, and some you secretly love way more than the rest (for legal reasons, this is a joke). When I heard that a song that emerged from my small, chaotic brain would be featured in this show, I kind of froze up and just sat with that joyful feeling for about an hour. Upon reflection, I think the emotion was pride. I was proud of myself and that silly little number I put together. It’s honestly always been a dream of mine to compose something for a musical because musical theatre was, and forever will be, my first love. So not to be dramatic but...this is kind of a dream come true.

If you were a Ratatouille character, who would you be?
I really want to say that I’m Colette: a strong, self-made woman thriving in an industry dominated by men. Great haircut. Articulate. Speaks French...but I am indisputably Emile. Pass the popcorn please.

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Katie Johantgen

Katie Johantgen
What did you create for the show?
I created the 'Ego's Flashback' number with composer Danny K. Bernstein and my fiancé James Penca. It captures the moment that the notoriously cynical and jaded food critic Anton Ego puts Remy and Linguini's work to the test and tries a bite of their signature ratatouille. He is transported back to one of his fondest childhood memories, of his mom making the dish for him, and we watch his heart melt before our eyes! It's our favorite scene in the film so we just knew we wanted to capture this for our TikTok contribution!

What was your first reaction upon hearing your work would be included in Ratatouille: A TikTok Musical?
When we heard that our work would be included in the TikTok musical we were thrilled! When we contributed to the Ratatouille musical on TikTok we tried to envision where our song would fall within a fully realized show, so we can't wait to see the whole thing come together.

If you were a Ratatouille character, who would you be?
If I were a Ratatouille character, I would be the crazy old lady in the beginning of the movie, because I too am scared of rats and don't know how to use a gun.

Daniel Mertzlufft
Daniel Mertzlufft

Daniel Mertzlufft
What did you create for the show?
On TikTok, I did the original arrangement of Emily Jacobson’s song that launched the movement! For this concert I’m serving as Music Supervisor, Arranger, and Songwriter. My job was to take the 9 songs from TikTok, write a few new songs to fill in places we were missing, and then arrange them all to create a cohesive score. It’s sounds strange, but it’s the same idea as what Tom Kitt did for The Spongebob Musical.

What was your first reaction upon hearing your work would be included in Ratatouille: A TikTok Musical?
I was over the moon when I got the call from Seaview that they were bringing me on as arranger and music supervisor! I was even more excited when they allowed Kate Leonard and I to write new songs for the piece. I’ve always wanted to write a Disney “I Want,” they are so iconic; “Part Of Your World,” “Go The Distance,” “Out There,” and now I can say I have!

If you were a Ratatouille character, who would you be?
Probably Collette. She is super serious and dedicated to her work, but she clearly has fun and loves life when she’s not working! I can relate to that!

JJ Niemann
JJ Niemann

JJ Niemann
What did you create for the show?
I make a lot of Broadway backstage/rehearsal comedy videos on TikTok, and so I helped the Ratatouille music gain some traction by using the songs posted on TikTok and then creating skits around them. One of them was envisioning Ratatouille: The Musical in rehearsals for its Broadway premiere, and another one was imagining doing a backstage quick change between musical numbers in Ratatouille.

What was your first reaction upon hearing your work would be included in Ratatouille: A TikTok Musical?
I was absolutely elated! I was asked to be in the dance and vocal ensembles and record vocals/videos for the concert. The vocal mock-ups and orchestrations sound incredible, and I really think this being the first true "crowd-sourced" original musical to be created online is a monumental thing.

If you were a Ratatouille character, who would you be?
I love ensemble work, so sign me up for being in the rat chorus and the chef's chorus! My dream though is to play Remy. So one day, that would be a dream, or even understudying that role would be wonderful!

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Alec Powell

Alec Powell
What did you create for the show?
I created the overture for the show. I tried to pay homage to Michael Giacchino while maintaining the excitement and flair of a Broadway show.

What was your first reaction upon hearing your work would be included in Ratatouille: A TikTok Musical?
I didn’t believe it. Not until I was signing contracts did it really hit me. Now I’m just happy to be along for the ride!

If you were a Ratatouille character, who would you be?
Emile, no questions asked.

READ: How the Viral Grocery Store: A New Musical Was Built Through TikTok Collaborations

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Blake Rouse

Blake Rouse
What did you create for the show?
Two of my songs were chosen to be a part of the Ratatouille TikTok musical. I created a tango between Colette and Linguini based off of a suggestion from another TikTok user. I love how complex and mysterious a tango usually is, so I knew it was something I’d have a blast making. Once I saw the success of the tango I created “The Rats Way of Life,” an upbeat, ensemble-heavy song about rats eating trash.

What was your first reaction upon hearing your work would be included in Ratatouille: A TikTok Musical?
I’m not going to lie to you, I almost passed out. It was never something I expected, but it was an announcement that completely rocked my world, and I’ve been on cloud nine ever since. It seems like each day I wake up and there’s something new to appreciate. The past couple months have been some of the most exciting months of my life.

If you were a Ratatouille character, who would you be?
It would be Remy because of my rat-like features and my penchant for eating anything.

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Chris Routh

Christopher Routh
What did you create for the show?
I designed set models for six of the songs. I took songs that other TikTok creators had created and made sets and scenes to match.

What was your first reaction upon hearing your work would be included in Ratatouille: A TikTok Musical?
I never thought my little set models would get so much recognition. I started sharing my work because, like myself, I knew so many people were missing Broadway and live theatre due to the Broadway shutdown. So I’m so glad I’m able to share this work to benefit The Actors Fund. It’s truly amazing that people were able to use a platform like TikTok to create a new musical together as a community and have Broadway recognize it. I’m still in awe! It’s unbelievable.

If you were a Ratatouille character, who would you be?
I really think I would be Remy. I feel like I can relate so much with this character and his journey. Never give up on what you believe in because it will manifest into something great and people will recognize you for your amazing creativity! A.K.A. Anyone Can Cook!

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Jess Siswick

Jess Siswick
What did you create for the show?
I created the poster key art for the musical.

What was your first reaction upon hearing your work would be included in Ratatouille: A TikTok Musical?
I immediately said "OK, let's do this" before my brain had time to process what was happening. I have been collecting theatre posters and Playbills since I was 6 years old, and now something I had made was going to become a poster and Playbill. A dream come true.

If you were a Ratatouille character, who would you be?
I think I would be Colette, hard working and aggressively passionate about what I love to do.

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