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Interview: Daniel Mertzlufft Talks Differences Between TikTok's FOR YOU, PAIGE & RATATOUILLE, Project Broadway & More!

Mertzlufft discusses being the creative lead behind TikTok's first commissioned TikTok musical!

Interview: Daniel Mertzlufft Talks Differences Between TikTok's FOR YOU, PAIGE & RATATOUILLE, Project Broadway & More!

TikTok just presented their first official commissioned TikTok musical, For You, Paige! The musical, performed live from a theater in New York City and streamed on TikTok, was led by none other than Daniel Mertzlufft, best known for his success on TikTok with Grocery Store Musical and Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical.

Inspired by real TikTok creators, For You, Paige follows music nerd Landon, who collaborates with his best friend Paige on a song inspired by her favorite book series. When Landon's TikTok goes viral, and a producer offers him an opportunity to adapt the book series into a musical, Landon enlists the help of Paige and the TikTok community.

For You, Paige featured James Henry as Tyler, Krystina Alabado as Kaia, JJ Niemann as Jarek, and others, with songs written by Daniel Mertzlufft, Julia Riew (who recently wrote her own musical), Katherine Lynn-Rose, RJ Christian, Blake Rouse, Morgan Reilly, Alex Engleberg, Kate Leonard and Gosz & Fotos and orchestrations by Macy Schmidt. Maria Goulamhoussen and Emily Maltby will co-direct the LIVE, with Emily and Katie Spelman choreographing.

BroadwayWorld spoke with Daniel Mertzlufft, Executive Producer, Co-Bookwriter, Composer, and Executive Music Supervisor of For You, Paige about being the creative lead behind TikTok's first commissioned TikTok musical.

For You, Paige is the first commissioned TikTok musical! Can you tell me how the idea for For You, Paige, came about?

After the success of "Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical" I wanted to explore ways of taking the incredible accessibility of that project (both to the creators of the work, as well as the audience) and find sustainable ways to create that that didn't rely on a pre-existing IP or extreme virality. I met with Media.Monks and TikTok and it turned out we all had similar goals, and from there, Project Broadway, the overarching umbrella project covering "For You, Paige" was created. From there we made a plan to create an original musical and needed an idea. We had a bunch of different concepts, but at the end of the day, TikTok is all about inside jokes, so when I first came up with the title "For You, Paige" we all agreed it was perfect. If you knew about the For You Page on TikTok, you realized it was a pun. If you didn't, then it still had a ring to it, in the world of "Dear Evan Hansen." And from there, the plot was written and the show came to life along with my co-bookwriter Kate Leonard.

You are the Executive Producer, Co-Bookwriter, Composer, and Executive Music Supervisor. What was the creative process like for this show and what has it been like wearing so many different hats?

The creative process was many things, but above all, it was FAST. We announced the project on January 13th, 2022 and premiered April 14th, 2022. And at that time, we didn't have a script yet, we had the title and a basic outline and that was it. So it was FAST. That sense of urgency was actually sort of the point of it though. We wanted to peel back the curtain on the creative process and show TikTok users where we were, what we needed, etc. A show doesn't just arrive to Broadway written fully, it goes through years of revisions, etc. and we wanted to show that process... just very quickly! Luckily I was surrounded by incredible songwriters and producers and collaborators who helped bring this all together.

This show has a meta element to it, what has it been like working on a musical that was inspired by your real-life experiences?

The show is ENTIRELY meta, and that was intentional. There are definitely moments that were pulled from my own experience, but it's much more than that. There have been countless people of all ages who have had something similar happen to them and so many more amazing creators we have yet to discover. The one song that really hits home for me though is Landon's "I Want" song called "Playing In My Key." It was really special to write a song from the perspective of a composer, and Kate Leonard's lyrics just are perfect in describing the way I and many other writers experience the world.

How has it been working with the cast and creative team?

I love them. I love them. I LOVE them! This show never would have come together without our amazing directorial team of Maria Goulamhoussen, Emily Maltby, and Katie Spelman, who could visualize the world and bring it to life in vertical, Kate Leonard the woman with magical words, Patrick Sulken our amazing vocal music director who always knew exactly what I was going for, Macy Schmidt my co-executive producer and orchestrator who can read my mind, and countless others. The INCREDIBLE cast... I could write a laundry list of how obsessed I am with each and every one of them. I really just am so thankful that all of these incredible people said yes to joining me on this absurd journey and I'm so proud of what we put out into the world.

Did the collaborative relationship with people on TikTok feel differently for For You, Paige than it did for Ratatouille?

It was definitely different because we knew that it was going to happen and a musical was truly coming to life, where Ratatouille was just random people posting videos, but besides that it was very similar. It also was very special to collaborate with other writers during TikTok Lives, where viewers could actually see us writing, see us making changes, etc.

How does it feel knowing that you are at the forefront of a new way of creating musical theatre?

I don't necessarily know if this is true, but regardless if this is an effective way of making theatre I'm just glad we're trying. The old model works. We know it does. But there MUST be other ways of collaborating and creating art. Is this it? Who knows. I'm just so thankful for everyone who is trying along with me, and so appreciative to have an audience who is excited to see something new.

Do you have a personal favorite song in the show?

Ah, this is SO hard. I would say "Playing In My Key" because it hits so close to home, but that feels like the obvious choice, so I'll have to say "Make The Moment Shine," which is our finale. It sums up the idea of the show well, but it also has a beautiful message in general. I specifically love Kate's lyric "Look out there, Moments are everywhere, Ready for stars that DARE to align." There is something about the "stars that dare to align" that just gets me every time.

What is your ultimate hope for For You, Paige? Is it an official Broadway or Off-Broadway run? Is it a cast album?

Honestly, my dream for "For You, Paige" has already happened. There were so many times where I wasn't sure if this project would be real and just to know that it exists, that over 1 million people tuned in... that's the dream. Beyond that, I would love a cast album to put out in the world, I also would love to see it in high schools and colleges. It feels perfect for a black-box college production. An Off-Broadway production would also be a dream, and I think there are so many opportunities there to tie in the collaboration and connection aspects of the platform. As for Broadway? That seems like a LITTLE too large of a stage for our show, but who's to say that the next show from Project Broadway won't be ready for a Broadway house!

Check Out For You, Paige TikToks below!

@danieljmertzlufft For You, Paige #projectbroadway #musicaltheatre #foryoupaige #broadway @romanwbanks @sri @tiktok original sound - danieljmertzlufft

@krystinaalabado A behind the scenes look at us creating For You, Paige a TikTok musical coming at you LIVE TONIGHT ON @tiktok 7pmEST #projectbroadway #fyp #musicaltheatre #theatrekid #broadway #bts #musicals Into the Unknown Version - Panic! At The Disco

@danieljmertzlufft Tune in to For You, Paige to hear these amazing talents!!! @romanwbanks @sri @jjniemann @krystinaalabado @jameshenry #projectbroadway #musicaltheatre original sound - danieljmertzlufft

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