During quarantine, the internet has been cooking up a storm. Some have taken the more literal route on cooking and chosen classics like banana bread. But, some users on TikTok instead revived an animated Pixar classic, Ratatouille.
I was skeptical. Ratatouille is Disney's magnum opus. I hoped that a musical could do the film justice, and the snippets of the musical sounded fine. But producing a full-length musical put together in around a month? No "Le Festin"? And how could we forget the barriers that the pandemic has imposed?
There's no going around it; the musical was far from perfect. However, it'd be naive to expect a Broadway production-quality performance, especially given the current circumstances. I bought an online ticket to the musical out of sheer curiosity, but I came out feeling excited. If this could be made in such a short amount of time and under the new normal, where could this musical go in the future?
We all know the story of Ratatouille: a Parisian rat finds inspiration from a late renowned chef who firmly believed that "anyone can cook." Said rat defies expectations from rats and humans alike. With the help of a garbage boy who works at the late chef's restaurant, the rat wows the world with exquisite dishes and inventive flavors. The film also covers heavier themes such as sexism in the workplace, capitalism-driven greed, and prejudice. The musical attempted to do the same, but it felt like these topics were only lightly glossed over. Colette's experience as the only female chef in Gusteau's kitchen is mentioned in one stanza, and Chef Skinner's avarice is omitted altogether. In the musical's defense, it came up just under one hour; Pixar's runs for just under two. It's possible that the musical can be polished up in the future. If so, this could be an avenue that the creators could further dive into.
The production was also corny, to say the very least, even by musical standards. The actors would be shown in a split screen whenever they were "performing" together, similar to the format of TikTok duets. The backgrounds were reminiscent of Zoom backgrounds, and the costumes (or lack thereof) fell flat. But these criticisms pale in comparison to the sheer talent of the cast and incredible work from each of the content creators.
I fully expected Adam Levine (Emile) to be the star performer. Don't get me wrong, he was fantastic. But Tituss Burgess (Remy) caught me off guard. I caught myself at certain points forgetting that I was watching a TikTok musical and thought I was listening to a Broadway production soundtrack. At times, the TikTok-esque style of the musical served in Burgess' favor by providing more optimal views of the actor's performance. Ashley Park (Colette) was also spunky and brilliant, but could we have expected anything less from Broadway’s Gretchen Wieners?
Overall, I'm pretty impressed. The tracks were enjoyable enough, and meme enthusiasts will probably be singing about "the rat of all my dreams" for the foreseeable future. Perhaps this musical will further develop and hit Broadway once the pandemic clears up. But the TikTok musical did not disappoint and raised over $1 million in its opening night for actors who were hit by the pandemic. At the end of the day, there's not much more to ask for.