3 Reasons Why The Ratatouille Musical will forever change how we create musicals.

2020 is not the year of disruption.
It’s the year of interruption.
Everything we’ve hung our sequined hats on over the past decade (or five) is up for a new take. And one of the things that keeps me going is the opportunity for new ways of doing things when we return.
And leave it to Gen Z to teach us that the very process we use to create shows could be reinvented as well.
If you’re just joining us, and don’t know what I’m bloggin’ about, let me catch you up.
  • A TikTok user made up a song for a hypothetical musical based on the Disney flick, Ratatouille. (Not unlike the same exercise every BMI student has done since the days of Lehman Engel – and kudos to this TikToker for NOT needing a teacher to tell her to try it.)
  • Another user added orchestrations.
  • The thing went viral.  (I even contributed an idea for a tagline – that was seen almost 2 million (!) times).

And last week, it was announced that this viral sensation would make it to Broadway in a concert version for The Actors Fund.

So, if you’re keeping score, that’s Gen Z for the win!!!

This is an earthquake of news that will forever change how new musicals are written and how they get to Broadway.  Here are three ways it will affect what musical theater TheaterMakers do.

  1.  Musicals will be written by more than one author. Convention wisdom says you need one voice.  One vision.  One author to write each element of a musical – the music, the lyrics, or the score.   Maybe two if you’re careful.  What the Ratatouille movement proves is that if that vision is clear, if the source material is strong, and if the creators are truly collaborative, then a show can be written by a lot more than one person.And maybe, it’ll mean even higher quality musicals in the future?  Hollywood has used the multiple writer approach since it started turning out its art.  Why not Broadway? I’ve been a fan of the “Group Think” idea of creating for years.  My first show was created that way, as was this one.  As long as there is a unifying voice (the Director should fill this post), it can work and work well.Oh, and when you’ve got more than one author, musicals get written much, much faster. 🙂
  2.  Social Media Can Get Musicals Made. 10 Years ago, if a group of next gen composers/lyricists approached Disney about doing a musical based on Ratatouille, even if only in concert, they would have been politely told to go eat cheese.  And now, they are giving their silent blessing to a concert version of this viral phenomenon (I have to believe the incredibly foresighted Tom Schumacher is the one who stumped for this).  And who knows, like Newsies surprised them (they never expected it to go to Broadway), maybe this concert version will too.  And TikTokers could be up for Tonys in a few years. We saw how social media could get a musical to Broadway with Be More Chill. Now we’ve seen how it can get rights!  Expect more hypothetical musicals on TikTok and other platforms.  And expect the ones that go viral to be granted permission to move ahead.
  3. Taking chances on unknowns is less risky than you think.One of the first blogs I ever wrote was about the success of the producing team of Jeffrey Seller and Kevin McCollum – a duo responsible for Rent, Avenue Q and In The Heights.  You know what those three musicals have in common, besides that they all won the Tony Award for best musical?  Each one was the Broadway debut for the Composer, Lyricist, Bookwriter and Director. Ratatouille once again proves that there is something passionate about those who haven’t yet been given a big stage.  And it suggests that work by the names you don’t know may be what you should invest in.

I have always been a fan of people who create just for the sake of creating.  Good things always come from it in the long run, no matter what happens in the short run.  And the creators of Ratatouille have not only changed their own lives (even if they can’t see it just yet), they have changed our industry for the better.

 I’ve started posting TheaterTips on the TikTok.  Watch me figure out this new social network (and be really awkward about it!) here.

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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.