I think it started as a joke, but at this point I honestly can’t tell and don’t care to find out. Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical is the kind of event that could only happen on the internet during a global pandemic and while that by no means justifies what we’ve all been through over the past year, it does give you a reason to smile and laugh. And while many may have come thinking they would be laughing at it, in the end, everyone watching was laughing with it, and singing along, too! Like the plot of the film, the show takes what should be trash and elevates it into art.
The project is a testament to the ripple effects that can be inspired from a single post, and one worth celebrating because unlike the platforms of my teenage years, the TikTok generation seems to lift each other up rather than making names of people like William Hung and Rebecca Black to mock them. Emily Jacobsen was excited about Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure coming to EPCOT and was inspired to make a cute video where she sang the praises of everyone’s favorite rat. It took off like wildfire, inspiring other TikTok users to create follow-up songs that eventually led to the idea that a musical could be born from it.
Not only did it grow into the “First crowdsourced global theater phenomenon,” but in another inspiring twist, it was done for charity. With a cast and orchestra mostly composed of the New York City theater community, the $5 price of admission on TodayTix benefits The Actors Fund. At the same time, the funniest jokes poke fun at theater, with a chorus of rats in the opening number taking a jab at Cats (“Ratical Songs for Ratical Rats”) and a moment in Remy’s big ballad that feels like an homage to “The Wizard and I” from Wicked.
With so much goodness behind Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical, it’s hard to be critical of it. After all, your “ticket” was really just a charitable donation, so you can’t feel bad about paying for it. Nor did you sacrifice time to get to or from a theater and with a runtime of just under an hour, it didn’t take much from you if you didn’t enjoy yourself. But let’s start with what the show did well because it had some truly knockout moments.
While there are some big names and recognizable faces attached to a few roles, 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 is better than any vision you have in your head of a real life Linguini who sings. While many of the other actors are hamming it up on their Zoom call, he gives a very real performance and makes you believe this actually could work on the stage, as bananas as that sounds. Playing against him as Colette, 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, give it to both of them!
The songs are also so much better than they have any right to be. The standout hit is definitely the opening number, “Anyone Can Cook,” but most impressively, each song comes from a different writer, yet feels like a cohesive setlist that could’ve come from the same mind. If a cast recording isn’t produced, a big opportunity will have been missed.
Put together on screens with each actor recording their parts from home doesn’t make for as bad of an experience as you might think, but it’s far from satisfactory. Having Tituss Burgess (Remy) sandwiched between Adam Lambert (Emile) and Wayne Brady (Django) would be fine if they were all able to somehow react to their left or right appropriately, but there’s little “Reacting” in the acting as a result, although Ashley Park did it just fine, so, again, give her a trophy. With blue screen backgrounds, you also wish some of the digital sets applied were a little more interesting to look at. More often than not, it’s just a grey background, but major props to Kevin Chamberlin (Gusteau) for performing in his own amazing kitchen.
I’m a huge Tituss Burgess fan and more often than not I loved him in this role. In fact, his performance is exactly what I would’ve expected from the project going in, but playing against Andrew Barth Feldman in many of his scenes, Burgess’ performance ends up feeling disingenuous next to a portrayal of Linguini that’s filled with so much heart and warmth. As I said before, Feldman steals the show, but also may have inadvertently transformed Tituss Burgess’ Remy into something almost too farcical for this project. It would’ve been fine if the whole show was as campy and silly as I anticipated, but that wasn’t quite the case.
The narrative of the show relies mostly on your recall of the events from the Pixar film, delivering lots of moments through a quick recap delivered by Remy before diving into a moment from the film that was expanded into a song. It’s forgivable for all of the justifiable reasons above, not to mention that the first TikTok post that got this train running was just 4-months. That’s a tight timeframe to put something even half as good as this together, so it’s still an impressive feat. If anything, it makes you think this show could actually work on stage with another year of development and some workshop hours.
Following the premiere, the official Twitter account revealed that they raised $1 million for The Actors Fund! It’s available all weekend, so if you haven’t seen it yet and this review inspired you to check it out, time is ticking. You can learn more at the show’s official website (ratatousical.com) and get your tickets at TodayTix.com. All in all, it’s a delightful surprise that starts 2021 on the right foot.
— Ratatouille Musical (@ratatousical) January 2, 2021
Alex has been blogging about Disney films since 2009 after a lifetime of fandom. He joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and covers films across all of Disney’s brands, including Star Wars, Marvel, and Fox, in addition to books, music, toys, consumer products, and food. You can hear his voice as a member of the Laughing Place Podcast and his face can be seen on Laughing Place’s YouTube channel where he unboxes stuff.