Updated: Jan 9, 2021
“Excuse Me Waiter, There’s a Rat In My Soup!”
Only a few months ago, Broadway fans came together on TikTok in an unprecedented collaboration to create a new musical based on the beloved Disney film "Ratatouille." Then, only yesterday, Broadway said “bon appetite” with a big Broadway feast! “Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical” began its celebration of the delectable crowd-sourced creation by giving it the full high-kicking, lip-smacking Broadway treatment. Now—it’s your musical, cooked to perfection!
This incredible, almost miraculous production is based on the brilliant, animated 2007 Pixar release from Walt Disney Pictures. The title refers to the French dish ratatouille, a French Provençal stewed vegetable dish originating in Nice, and follows an anthropomorphic rat named Remy, an earnest and lovable rodent, who dreams of becoming a chef and tries to achieve his goal by forming an alliance with a Parisian restaurant's garbage boy named Linguini.
The film starred the voices of Patton Oswalt as Remy, Lou Romano as Alfredo Linguini, Ian Holm as Skinner, the head chef of Auguste Gusteau's restaurant; Janeane Garofalo as Colette Tatou, a French rôtisseur and the staff's only female chef; Peter O'Toole as Anton Ego, the feared restaurant critic; Brian Dennehy as Remy's father and leader of his rat-pack clan; Peter Sohn as Emile, Remy's older brother; and Brad Garrett as Auguste Gusteau, a recently deceased chef.
The Disney film premiered at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles, California, and was considered a box office success, receiving widespread critical acclaim and winning the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. It was even later voted one of the 100 greatest motion pictures of the 21st century by the BBC.
Remy is a member of a large family of rats (a horde, I think, is the word) who ply the trash cans and sewers of a Parisian suburb, just like good rats should. "Eat your garbage!" commands Remy's father, Django, obviously a loving parent. The rats are evicted from their cozy home in a cottage-kitchen ceiling in a scene that will have rat-haters cringing, and they are ultimately swept through the sewers in a torrential flood. Remy, who has always been blessed with a refined palate and a sensitive nose (there's certainly something de Gaullean about his snout), washes up near the river in view of the most famous restaurant in tout le France. Recognizing his culinary hero, he now starts skulking around the kitchen of Gusteau, delving in all the wonderful aromas and spices.
Linguini, the garbage duty employee, and Remy meet, somehow establish trust and communication, and when Linguini gets credit for a soup that the rat has made and gets promoted to cook, he panics and they team up. Remy burrows into Linguini's hair and is concealed by his toque, but can see through its transparent sides and controls Linguini’s every move in the kitchen by expressive body language or by pulling on his hair as if each tuft were a joystick. Together, they astonish Paris with their genius, rising to the top of the restaurant industry, only to be judged by the imperious critic Anton Ego.
Fast forward to the year 2020, and to this new TikTok production, which follows the storyline somewhat faithfully, but it’s done a bit more succinctly. The narrative of the show relies mostly on your recall of the events from the Pixar film, delivering quick recaps by Remy before diving into those moments from the film which are now expanded into songs.
With plenty of big names attached to a limited number of roles, including the amazing Tituss Burgess (Broadway’s “The Little Mermaid”) as Remy the rat, the show is truly stolen by two Broadway actors who have been successful on stage, but haven’t transitioned to the screen yet. Andrew Barth Feldman (“Dear Evan Hansen”) is better than what anyone could imagine as a real life Alfred Linguini who can sing, and sing well. Playing against him as Colette, Tony Nominee Ashley Park of “Mean Girls: The Musical” fame throws all of herself into the part and holds her own against Feldman while not even being in the same room. If there’s an internet equivalent of the Tony Award, I say, both of them deserve it!
With a cast and orchestra mostly composed of a combination of the New York City theater community and Broadway stars, the musical includes Tony winner Priscilla Lopez (Mabel), Owen Tabaka (Young Ego), three-time Tony nominee Mary Testa (Skinner), Wayne Brady (Django), Kevin Chamberlin (Gusteau), Grammy Award Nominee Adam Lambert (Emile), with Cori Jaskier, Talia Suskauer, Nikisha Williams, JJ Niemann, John Michael Lyles, Raymond J. Lee, and Joy Woods as the ensemble, and the 20-piece Broadway Sinfonietta orchestra.
Executive Producers/Creators are Jeremy O. Harris, Michael Breslin, and Patrick Foley; Choreographer is Ellenore Scott. The Orchestrator is Macy Schmidt; the Sound Mixer is Angie Teo, and the Music Director is Emily Marshall. Featuriing music from Danny Bernstein (@dannykbernstein), Gabbi Bolt (@fettuccinefettuqueen), Chamberlin (@chamberlin_kevin), RJ Christian (@rjthecomposer), Nathan Fosbinder (@fozzyforman108), Emily Jacobsen (@e_jaccs), Sophia James (@sophiajamesmusic), Katie Johantgen (@katiejoyofosho), Daniel Mertzlufft (@danieljmertzlufft), Alec Powell (@phisherpryce), and Blake Rouse (@blakeyrouse).
In 60-second increments, TikTok users contributed their own songs, dances, makeup looks, set designs, puppets and Playbill programs inspired by the 2007 movie. And incredibly, without any real leadership then, the virtual show materialized organically from a crowdsourced jumble of content. The standout hit of the show is definitely the opening number, “Anyone Can Cook,” but most impressively, each song in the show comes from a different writer, yet feels like a cohesive set list that could have come from the same mind.
The Music Supervisor and Arranger, Daniel Mertzlufft, who wrote most of the “Ratatouille” songs, began immediately pulling from the nine songs that were already on TikTok from fans and then created some kind of cohesive score tying them all together. This was challenging, because many were only a minute long, so new songs had to be written to fill in some spots. The opening number, and an “I Want” song were first on the agenda. Working on a 24/7 basis the first few weeks of December, contending with insane dealines and literally doing a song a day, the effort was finished in a less than a few weeks, which ordinarily may have taken many months, if not years.
Christopher Routh, the Set Designer, who also works as a photographer, began building shoe-box set models from ideas he got from Pinterest. One was simply a silhouette of Linguini with a chef’s hat, and it had a shadow of Remy. Literally cutting that out, Mr. Routh lit it up using projections, making sure that the hat was transparent so Remy could be seen from the back of it, and that’s when the whole set building started coming together. Using blue screen backgrounds, and quite a bit of creativity, the setting materialized shortly after. It is true, some of the digital backgrounds applied could have been a little more interesting, but we do have to give major props to Kevin Chamberlin (Gusteau) for performing in his own amazing kitchen.
And high marks to Director Lucy Moss, who previously co-directed and co-wrote “Six: The Musical,” and who was challenged with utilizing the least theatrical space ever—online—and then had the daunting task of picking the best from submitted TikTok materials. Director Moss then used cutting edge technology, special effects and the most Gen-Z thing in the world to happily create a Zoom-like concert that became a musical conceived like no other. From start to finish, those three weeks were the quickest turnaround for a Broadway show ever! That’s a very tight time-frame to put something this clever together, and really is an impressive feat.
Premiering January 1st at 7PM EST, the event, which began as a dubious premise, culminated yesterday as a triumph of comedy, imagination and, yes, humanity—even for a rat. With the Actors Fund as the recipient of proceeds, the show has already raised over a million dollars in contributions.
“Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical” is available now to purchase and view on demand for 72 hours. All in all, it’s a delightful surprise that not only starts 2021 on the right foot, but helps us get Broadway back even stronger than ever! Join us and contribute what you can (beginning at $5), and enjoy yet another first of its kind production in this very challenging time. But time is ticking. So get your tickets now at www.TodayTix.com.
Arts & Entertainment Reviewer
The Show Report