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What the Hell Happened: ‘Ratatouille: The Musical’

The semi-official "Ratatouille" playbill.
The semi-official "Ratatouille" playbill. By Courtesy of Playbill
By Kalos K. Chu, Crimson Staff Writer

The Crimson has covered its fair share of quarantine pop culture: the “Twilight” renaissance, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez playing “Among Us” on Twitch, that week where everyone was literally just drawing and reposting fruit on their Instagram stories. If these trends have taught us anything, it’s that nobody can predict what will emerge from this creative crucible of quarantine. To quote a former arts chair, “Nietzsche was wrong. God is very much alive,” and 2020’s Twitter headlines are just His Mad Libs.

One of His preferred Mad Libs prompts, it seems, is Proper Noun: The Musical, which has spawned such classics as Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Musical and Grocery Store: The Musical. Both musicals came into being entirely on TikTok, with users taking advantage of the app’s duet feature to join in (Grocery Store: The Musical, for example, stars @another.blonde as “Mom,” @ireallylikemusica1s as “Employee,” and @igorandwheezy as “The Water Sprayers That Always Mist You When You’re Reaching for the Kale”). As viral as these two musicals became, neither could ever hope to match the size, scale, and dramaturgical depth of (what one can only assume is) 2020’s final TikTok musical creation — Ratatouille: The Musical.

Its origins can be traced back to Aug. 10, when @e_jaccs posted a TikTok of her singing “Ode to Remy,” an original ballad that, as of writing, only received 684k views (possibly as a result of it being tagged #ratatoille). On Oct. 19, however, @danieljmertzlufft (the creator of Grocery Store: The Musical) posted the ensemble cover of the original song, which has since garnered over 1.5 million views and become the anthem of the Ratatouille: The Musical movement.

In the ensuing weeks, theater TikTok was flooded with Ratatouille content. There were, of course, plenty of songs: Remy’s dad’s bouncy tango, “Trash Is Our Treasure”; Linguini’s tender ballad, “Anyone Can Cook”; and Anton Ego’s chilling solo, “Ratatouille” — just to name a few highlights. Actor Kevin Chamberlin (“Jessie”) and Jimmy Award winner Andrew B. Feldman ’25 (“Dear Evan Hansen”) have also pitched in, adding in two top-tier songs for Gusteau and Linguini, respectively.

But it didn’t just stop with songs. Like melodramatic, socially-awkward Avengers, the the theater kids of TikTok assembled in full force: sketching costumes, choreographing dance numbers, creating prototype sets, designing program covers — even building actual physical puppet costumes for Remy and Emile. I have never actually been at a pitch meeting for a real Broadway show, but I imagine this adds up to far more pre-development material than it took for, say, “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical” to be greenlit.

And just like an actual musical, Ratatouille seems to have amassed a fan following of its own. @rockysroad, for example, created a Lin-Manuel Miranda parody of Remy, replete with multisyllabic internal rhyme and a disconcertingly familiar goatee. Patton Oswalt, who played Remy in the original film, has been sporadically retweeting Ratatouille musical content, and the official DisneyParks TikTok account posted a video featuring Milo Manheim’s (“Zombies”) unofficial audition clip. Most recently, the official Pixar Instagram and Twitter accounts posted a picture of Remy with the caption, “The rat of all our dreams” — a reference, of course, to the line from “Ode to Remy,” the TikTok that started it all.

Quarantine has been a particularly dark time for theater kids. Broadway theaters are closed. High school and college musical productions have moved online or shut down entirely. The sacred dining rooms of Denny’s across the country have fallen silent — the giddy post-show gossip being relegated to Zoom rooms and FaceTimes, a poor substitute for the weird, sweaty energy of the time-honored theater kid tradition. It’s heartening, then, to see that the spirit of musical theater lives on; that the singers, actors, writers, choreographers, and designers are still out there, as talented as ever; and that not even a pandemic can stop this inexplicable, obsessive, wonderful thing that is Gen Z theater kid energy.

—Staff writer Kalos K. Chu can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @kaloschu.

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