TikTok cooks up something special with the ‘ratatousical’

February 19, 2021

The year 2020 was full of creative ways to showcase art, but 2021 might’ve started with the most innovative yet: a virtual musical plucked straight from the trending pages of social media. “Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical,” aka the “ratatousical,” is a wholesome virtual joy that turned the beloved Pixar movie about a rat named Remy into a celebration of rats, music and creativity from unexpected places. If “Ratatouille” teaches audiences that “anyone can cook,” this musical proves that talent can come from even the most humble of origins, as the songs all originated from a group of passionate individuals on TikTok. This is no over-the-top, dazzling production full of tear-jerking moments and critical acclaim. Instead it’s a wholesome celebration of a rat and a very passionate theater community—complete with references to hit musicals like “Cats,” “Rent” and “Six” to pay homage to some of the greats of the genre. 

The musical opened with a personal message from one of the show’s inspirations, Emily Jacobsen, who said she posted the very first TikTok about a potential musical adaptation of “Ratatouille” back in August 2020. From there, countless others—including those whose original songs got used in the actual show like Gabbi Bolt, Blake Rouse and Sophia James—joined in the fun: writing songs, choreographing dances, designing playbills, mocking up fake rat-themed ads for the playbills—anything that would fit the idea of this musical adaptation. Eventually, this idea picked up so much traction that it became a full-fledged musical in a partnership between Broadway and TikTok. Tickets for the show started at $5—the best $5 I’ve ever spent—and proceeds went to the The Actors Fund, according to the ratatousical homepage on TodayTix. Over $2 million was raised for The Actors Fund, according to a post on the musical’s Instagram

I went in with very little expectations. It was a musical about a rat produced entirely remotely. Not to mention, it was based on a film I loved and musical adaptations have let me down before. And yet, “Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical” had me charmed and delighted the whole way through. Sure, some songs were stronger than others, but the entire cast involved was clearly having such a wonderful time putting this together. 

My favorite song was a solo number from Remy (Titus Burgess). Titled “Remember My Name,” this track is a classic “I want” song, chronicling the protagonist’s dreams and backstory. This track outlines Remy’s desire to cook and hope for a future now that he has arrived in Paris. The background is a poorly green-screened sunset in Paris and the only attempt at a rat costume was Burgess wearing gray, but the number refuses to fall short as it uses Remy’s melody—the melody that began the whole show, that will echo again in the finale, that was in the first TikTok for this musical that I ever heard. Burgess pours his heart into this number, convincing me of Remy’s dream and future success as a chef. It’s impossible not to smile. 

Costumes were clearly homemade, but that just added to the inviting atmosphere, especially since most cast members made an attempt to match the story. The early number “Anyone Can Cook” starring Gusteau (Kevin Chamberlain) features the chef in a traditional outfit from the waist up… but sweats and sneakers from the waist down. The stark contrast of standard expectations and reality was perhaps a little jarring, but ultimately it made me laugh. “Business in the front, party in the back” is kind of the motto for dressing during a pandemic. 

Wayne Brady, though, went all out with his costuming for Remy’s dad Django, from fake ears in a beanie to drawing on a pink nose and whiskers. Collette (Ashley Park) and Linguini (Andrew Barth Feldman) both don chef hats, with props of cooking utensils and a rat plushie respectively. The ensemble features dancers as rats. Though only some drew on rat whiskers, all wore some sort of ears—a few even put their hair up in space buns to give the illusion of ears! It’s the little things, the makeshift details, that really sell the whole production. 

From a high-brow standard, “Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical” is objectively bad. It’s full of poor quality backgrounds and TikTok effects and AirPods and very little consistency in wardrobe and makeup. That being said, I adored every second of the ratatousical. This isn’t a pretentious musical destined for Tony awards—and it isn’t trying to be. At its root, it’s just a bunch of theater geeks coming together to have a good time and foster a sense of community in an incredibly isolating time. If that’s not enough, the orchestra was phenomenal. As a mediocre horn player myself, I can assure you that the French Horn (Kyra Sims) was especially talented. Though it only ran for a few days, the ratatousical proves that a passionate cast and crew plus a heartwarming story make for a recipe of success! 

Menu Title