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BWW Exclusive: Meet the Makers of RATATOUILLE: The TikTok Musical- Daniel Mertzlufft

Daniel wrote the musical arrangements for Ratatouille, as well as The Thanksgiving Musical and The Grocery Store Musical.

When Broadway is dark, all that it takes is one little rat and a team of up-and-coming theatre makers to save the day. Just last week, it was announced that Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical generated more than $2 million in ticket sales, to benefit The Actors Fund.

Presented by the Tony Award-winning theatrical production company Seaview, in association with TodayTix Presents and TikTok, Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical streamed for 72 hours only earlier this month (followed by a one-night-only encore), featuring content created by members of TikTok's #RatatouilleMusical Community, whose collective work has earned the engagement of more than 200 million fans around the globe.

Check out what the critics had to say about the incredible musical event and catch up on what Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical is all about!

Below, BroadwayWorld is catching up with one of the creators, Daniel Mertzlufft- the musical arranger behind not only Ratatouille, but other 2020 viral sensations like The Thanksgiving Musical and The Grocery Store Musical.

BWW Exclusive: Meet the Makers of RATATOUILLE: The TikTok Musical- Daniel Mertzlufft

2020 has been quite a year for you! When and how did your involvement in all of these incredible projects get started?

I got into TikTok, along with a lot of the world, at the beginning of the pandemic. I started as just a consumer, but then realized people might like some of my arrangements and original songs, so I started posting. My first big video was for a song called "The Girls of Ba Sing Se" from a parody Avatar The Last Airbender musical. That's when I realized that people really liked this parody musical idea; leaning into the sincere but always going one step too far to make it parody. So then The Grocery Store Musical, which is an arrangement of "New York Summer" by Louisa Melcher, was my first viral video. And then from there I just kept making content, including The Thanksgiving Musical for The Late Late Show with James Corden, and eventually my arrangement of "Ode To Remy" by Emily Jacobson that launched the Ratatouille Musical movement.

I'm sure that bringing together all of these pieces for Ratatouille was a massive endeavor. Can you tell us more about the work that went into getting the musical to the finish line?

Putting together the Ratatouille Musical in such a short timeline was a huge challenge. My first meeting with the producers was on December 4th, and we recorded in a studio with an orchestra on December 19th. I don't know if a Broadway quality score has ever been put together in that amount of time. After the December 4th meeting, we assembled a music team and from there it was a conveyor belt. I would write one song/one arrangement every single day, then it would go to Macy Schmidt, our brilliant orchestrator, who would do one orchestration every day, then it was off to the copyists to get ready. It was an insane process, truly with no time to look back. We had to hope that our first instinct was right because there was no time to think!

What are your hopes for the future of Ratatouille?

Disney only allowed us to perform for this single concert benefit, so I am gracious to them for that. That being said, of course I would love to see Ratatouille out in the world and being performed in schools and people streaming the album, but the fact we even were able to do what we did, with the approval from Disney is enough for me!

What do you think about the future of TikTok as a starting point for other musicals? Do you think this is a wake-up call for producers and other theatre makers to take content on this medium and other social media seriously?

I am really hopeful that people look at Ratatouille as a proof-of-concept as a way to create new, exciting, and diverse musicals. Oftentimes shows take many years and millions of dollars to put up, and this was written in less than a few months and could be put into a theater almost immediately. I'm hopeful people take notice of that and develop ways to make sustainable and relevant new musicals and programs that are crowd-sourced and give voices to those who have never been heard before.

What else are you working on right now?

I actually just finished up a workshop of a new show called Dot and the Kangaroo in Australia, based on the beloved novel, with a book by Daniel Stoddart and lyrics by Kate Leonard. This show also has been developed fast, within the last 7 months, and we are really proud of what we've created. We learned a lot from the reading and are looking forward to bringing it into the world later this year! I also am really excited about a piece called Breathe: Portraits from a Pandemic based on 5 short stories by Jodi Picoult and Timothy Allen McDonald. Kate Leonard and I wrote music and lyrics for one of the five vignettes and other writers include Heisler and Goldrich, Douglas Lyons, and Rob Rokicki. We are in the works of creating a cast album and are filming a love concert version in February. I can't wait to share that with the world!

Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical starred Wayne Brady (Django), Tituss Burgess (Remy), Kevin Chamberlin (Gusteau), Tony Award winner André De Shields (Ego), Andrew Barth Feldman (Linguini), Grammy Award nominee Adam Lambert (Emile), Tony winner Priscilla Lopez (Mabel), Tony nominee Ashley Park (Colette), Owen Tabaka (Young Ego), and three-time Tony nominee Mary Testa (Skinner), with Cori Jaskier, Talia Suskauer, Nikisha Williams, JJ Niemann, John Michael Lyles, Raymond J. Lee, and Joy Woods as the ensemble.

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