By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer
The animated Pixar film about a rat becoming a chef is now a feature-length musical, according to Playbill. The production features Wayne Brady, Tituss Burgess, and Adam Lambert among its cast. Could it be the next Hamilton?
An official Playbill page for Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical started 2021 off with a (streaming) theatrical bang. “The Ratatouille of all our dreams kicks off 2021 right, just a few months after a TikTok viral sensation envisioned the Disney film as a stage musical,” the website said. “Featuring Broadway stars and content by several of the original video creators, Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical [streamed] January 1 at 7 p.m. ET on TodayTix with proceeds benefiting The Actors Fund.”
The original Pixar film, Ratatouille, which released in 2007, starred voice actor Patton Oswalt as a rat in Paris whose dream of being a chef comes true with the help of a young restaurant dishwasher-turned-cook. The musical adaptation has pop culture sensibility, it appeals to audiences younger than is typical for Broadway, and features a diverse cast. These factors could help it follow in the footsteps of Lin Manuel-Miranda’s blockbuster Hamilton.
Setting the Stage
Ratatouille takes place in Paris. French cuisine is featured throughout the film, including the dish from which the film takes its name. Also featured is the city skyline of Paris, with its instantly recognizable landmark—the Eiffel Tower. Likewise, Hamilton relishes in its Revolutionary-era New York setting by establishing it through the use of the characters’ dialogue throughout the story.
“The Schuyler sisters, at one point, are introduced [while] singing about themselves; but not only do they sing about themselves, they [also] don’t sing a song about their clothes; they don’t sing a song about how they’re sisters, and how they get along,” said Dr. John McWhorter, Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University.
“That’s what an ordinary person would write them doing and nobody would want to see that [as a] musical. Instead, they’re singing about what’s around them, and their appearance doubles as showing us that New York, in that time, is a showcase—that it’s the greatest city in the world.”
Dr. McWhorter said that the play emphasizes its setting by having the Schuyler sisters enter with exuberant energy, proclaiming their excitement for being in Revolutionary-era New York, at that point in time.
“That’s good theater,” he said.
Getting with the Times
Another aspect that brought Hamilton success as a hit Broadway production of the award-winning musical was its musical genre: rap, a contemporary genre typically popular with young people.
“For a generation who think of the music of Jay-Z or Kanye West or Kendrick Lamar, not as some exotic form of music called ‘rap,’ but as music itself, Hamilton is special because it means that a story is being told in music that you don’t have to adjust to,” Dr. McWhorter said. “It isn’t like the music of Stephen Sondheim, where, frankly, most people are never going to genuinely like it.”
Dr. McWhorter said show tunes are rarely the type of music that people “live to.” The public often considers them to be antiquated show music, rather than something available on the radio or found in our “frequently played” playlists on digital streaming platforms.
“Hamilton is a kind of musical that hits people right in their gut in the same way as a musical by the Gershwin brothers, in 1925, hit people in their gut,” he said. “So Hamilton brings musicals back to being all about music that most people genuinely feel and find urgent.”
If Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical hits all the right notes, it could become a pop culture sensation in its own right.
Dr. John McWhorter contributed to this article. Dr. McWhorter is Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He previously was Associate Professor of Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley. He earned his BA from Rutgers University, his MA from New York University, and his PhD in Linguistics from Stanford University.