“The Rat of All My Dreams”

How the Ratatouille Musical Became the Best Musical of 2021



What started as a joke turned into an internet phenomenon.

Sophia Ramos, Media Editor

Just like most everything on the video-sharing platform, Emily Jacobson’s (@e_jaccs) 15-second video was simply meant to be a silly joke wherein she sang an original ballad to the main character of Disney Pixar’s animated film Ratatouille. Little did she know that she would spark a cultural phenomenon that went all the way up to Broadway.

Picture this: it’s August of 2020. For several months now the world has been at a standstill since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic earlier in March. At this point, the throne of American live theatre that is Broadway has been shut down since early March, a closure that has since left thousands without jobs. After scrolling through many musical TikTok videos, you come across the one made by Jacobson and her pitched-up voice hits your ears, singing “Remy the ratatouille, the rat of all my dreams. I praise you, my ratatouille, may the world remember your name.” The song is silly, the images of Remy the Rat with various video overlays are hilarious, and you double tap to like the video and move on to other TikToks. Eventually Jacobson’s video fades from your memory.

This is what many of the viewers of Jacobson’s “Remy the Ratatouille” song experienced, until one fateful day in October.

Daniel Mertzlufft (@danieljmertzlufft) had made a rise to TikTok fame with his Grocery Store Musical, which amassed up to 9 duets at once from different TikTok users contributing things like “the random voice that comes over the speaker,” “a can of soup,” and the amazing vocals of “the squeaky wheel on the shopping cart,” portrayed by user @themichaelspencer. As a composer, much of his TikTok content is mainly him collaborating with song writers to make fun 60-second songs. With these credentials under his belt, it was only a matter of time until Mertzlufft was tagged on Jacobson’s Ratatouille song, and thus came the TikTok titled “Remy: The Musical.” With additional vocals provided by  @cjaskier and Mertzlufft, as well as his additional composition, the young composer had turned Jacobson’s short soliloquy into a show-stopping finale. Complete with a vocal motif inspired by The Hunchback of Notre Dame and a vision of “Remy on a lift flying over the audience,” Mertzlufft’s rendition of the original song took off, and the following months were full of TikTok creators contributing to the “Ratatousical,” from costume designers to songwriters to a small-scale set design by Chris Routh A.K.A @shoeboxmusicals. By November 21st of 2020, the TikTok craze had made its way to mainstream media, catching support from Patton Oswalt (the voice of Remy in the original film), and even getting an original playbill boosted by Playbill itself (designed by Jess Siswick @siswij). With TikTok fans getting psyched about the prospect of a legitimate musical coming to Broadway when it finally reopens, the news of a virtual concert came out of nowhere.

The ensemble and cast of “Ratatouille” performing the final number.

The verified account by the name of “Ratatouille The TikTok Musical” published its first video on December 9th. Unlike the other TikToks using the #RatatouilleMusical, it wasn’t a creative contribution to the internet musical. Rather, it was an official announcement that the “Ratatousical” would be streaming on January 1st, 2021. With the go-ahead from Disney and all proceeds going towards The Actors Fund to support out-of-work actors, the long-awaited event was no longer limited to the shared imagination of various TikTokers. Now, it was a virtual concert with Broadway-level talent mixed with the TikTok creators’ original songs. The creative team includes Lucy Moss as director; Moss is notably the youngest woman ever to direct a musical on Broadway as the co-creator and co-writer of SIX: The Musical. The cast stars Tituss Burgess (The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) as Remy, Tony Award winner André De Shields (Hadestown) as Anton Ego, and Andrew Barth Feldman (Dear Evan Hansen) as Alfredo Linguini. With an appropriate amount of hype from fans who had followed the musical’s journey since Mertzlufft’s orchestration, as well as impressive advertising in New York’s theatre district, the concert went live on New Year’s Day at 7pm EST and was showing until the evening of January 4th. Despite the digital format, the concert was still able to evoke the feeling of sitting in a New York theatre with its addition of a professional Broadway orchestra. Mertzlufft’s skills as a composer came in clutch with the eleven songs all written by different people but still mixing cohesively within the show’s style. The energy and enthusiasm put into the show by the actors was infectious, especially the ensemble members who got to showcase their skills in the bows song “Ratamix.”

As of writing this, the musical managed to raise $1.5 million for The Actors Fund through the initial streaming window. With a live encore performance hosted by TikTok on January 9th, that number was raised to $2 million. This large contribution for The Actors Fund, as well as the teamwork and incredible talent that arose from the Ratatousical bodes well for theatre in the future, especially as COVID-19 vaccines roll out and the reopening of Broadway draws nearer. 

And when all is said and done, we may be seeing a legitimate Ratatouille musical on the Great White Way soon enough.

Creators not mentioned in this article: Alec Powell (@phisherpryc), Kevin Chamberlin (@chamberlin_kevin), Gabbi Bolt (@fettucinefettuqueen), Kate Leonard (@kraaate), Nathan Fosbinder (@fozzyforman108), Ellenore Scott (@ellenoreshoto), Blake Rouse (@blakeyrouse), Sophia James (@sophiajamesmusic), R.J. Christian (@rjthecomposer), Danny K. Bernstein (@dannykbernstein), Katie Johantgen (@katiejoyofosho), Michael Breslin, Patrick Foley, Macy Schmidt, David Bengali, Emily Marshall, Jessie Rosso (@jessierosso), Geoffrey Ko, Angie Tao, Cody Renard Richard, Taylor Williams, Adrianna Hicks (@missadriannahicks), Cori Jaskier, Nicole Kyoung-Mi Lambert (@nila_kay), Jaymon J. Lee (@raymondjlee), John-Michael Lyles (@jmlyles), JJ Nieman (@jjniemann), Joy Woods (@joynwoods), Talia Suskauer