From Ratatouille to Bridgerton: How TikTok is Saving Musical Theater

     The users of one of the newest and most popular entertainment platforms, TikTok, have been showcasing their creativity and have creators working together to make musicals for popular shows and movies. 

     All of this was started by Emily Jacobsen, who jokingly posted a song she wrote about the movie Ratatouille. This song went viral and more creators started using their own talents to add on. They wrote, sang, and produced more songs, designed costumes, created a set for the stage, choreographed dances and scenes, and a Playbill was created. 

     As this trend grew more and more popular, users had the idea to get this musical onto the real Broadway stage. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a pause in Broadway and most of the entertainment  industry, so if it were to get on Broadway it would be a while. So the idea of using TikTok, a free platform, was really easy and made sense instead. In December of 2020, Lucy Moss, a director for Broadway, decided to make this musical official and happen virtually with real  actors, musicians, and producers. Stars such as Tituss Burgess, Wayne Brady, Adam Lambert, Kevin Chamberlain, Ashley Park and a few others were recorded from their homes acting and  singing. Along with them, orchestras played together to create live music. Two hundred million people viewed Ratatouille: The Musical, and it raised $1.9 million. The money went to the Actors Fund, which is for actors or others in the entertainment industry who are struggling or out of work due to the pandemic. 

     Lots of reactions resulted from the TikTok musical. In an article by Maria Rodriguez, freshman and performing arts student at Northern Arizona University Margaret Green said, “I think everyone expresses their interest in different ways, and it’s not really my  thing but I can respect it. So many people now are using TikTok, and if you ever wanted to get your message out there, that would be the way to do it.” This article also states, “Greene recognizes TikTok musicals aren’t for her, but said they certainly have an influence on the entertainment industry. On the other hand, Greene’s roommate Katelyn Mason, a choral music education major, said, “I think [TikTok musicals are] making musicals more accessible. Broadway musicals are so expensive, but making them online lets other people get excited about  them and kind of participate in the process of the musical.” Zachary Pincus-Roth from The  Washington Post wrote, “Like our own sourdough, the Ratatouille musical was a convocation of pandemic boredom, but it’s also the culmination of a larger phenomenon in musical theater. Social media performers, especially TikTok, are allowing for a fan experience that goes beyond the live attractions in 41 little boxes in midtown Manhattan like never before. Call it the new ecosystem of musical theater fan fiction, where creativity flourishes in unpredictable ways”.  

     The Netflix Original, Bridgerton, has become the most watched Netflix Original. It, too, has become the focus of a possible new TikTok musical. TikTok creator Abigail Barlow fell in love with Bridgerton and thought it would make a great Broadway show. In a Playbill article, Barlow says, “When I binged Bridgerton, it was just immediate to me that it belonged on the  stage.” Barlow continued, “[Sir Henry Granville] says, ‘You have no idea what it’s like to be in a room  with someone you can’t live without and feel like you’re oceans away from them,’ and I was like ‘That’s a song!’ So I went to my piano and made a TikTok, and it happened to resonate with everyone.” Barlow and her writing partner Emily Bear wrote and produced music and songs for each character. The winner of Playbill’s 2020 Search for a Star contest, Nick Daly, sang these songs on TikTok, and it helped gain popularity. 

     Although nothing is official for a Bridgerton Musical, Barlow, Bear and so many TikTok users hope that this musical will one day be on stage or—like Ratatouille—be virtual. TikTok has changed and also paved the way for musicals. It has proven that a whole community can work together to make a Broadway quality musical.