Written by Amanda Meyering, Jenna Powitz and Sarah Main, Edited by Jenna Bratman, Graphic by Bryce Chan
Gen Z is raving about the latest and greatest musicals, and no, they’re not on Broadway.
Instead, these musicals are at our fingertips on TikTok. The recent trend of creating original musicals surrounding popular shows and movies is bringing a whole new meaning to immersive theatre. With the power of the TikTok community, an algorithm built for virality, and the creative minds of thousands of individuals, TikTok musicals have become a unique sensation to get a brand noticed organically.
Both Ratatouille the Musical and Bridgerton the Musical have captured the hearts and creative minds of thousands of Gen Z TikTokers. This group has caused an uprising in popularity for both of these brands, showing the power and impact of engaging digital communities.
Ratatouille the Musical, the pioneer of TikTok musicals, began as a meme when Emily Jacobson posted an original song to TikTok after being inspired by the new Ratatouille ride coming to Disney World. Her video went viral and others began to use the sound on their own TikToks, inspiring additional content for this fan-created musical.
Creators posted their own songs, dances, set designs, costume designs and playbills. It was clear that what was once just a fun tune had turned into a full-fledged production — and it was all occurring on TikTok.
Ratatouille was released years ago. Disney wasn’t promoting the movie by any means. This purely happened through the power of the Gen Z digital community and its ability to conspire around a single idea and make it explode in popularity – enough popularity to catch the attention of some big Broadway stars, including Ashley Park and Andrew Barth Feldman.
The same happened with Bridgerton the Musical. It started with 22-year-old Abigail Barlow, who asked the question, “Ok but what if Bridgerton was a musical?” Barlow’s TikToks of original songs have garnered millions of views, and she’s not stopping until she creates the entire musical.
Like Ratatouille the Musical, people all over the world are contributing to Bridgerton the Musical, dueting videos and creating their own content. The Gen Z community behind Bridgerton the Musical has been featured by huge publications, and the cast of Bridgerton has expressed excitement for the fan-made musical.
The TikTok musical became organic advertising for the release of Bridgerton, something that the brand itself didn’t have to touch.
Producers decided to utilize the vitality of Ratatouille the Musical to give directly back to the community that created it: artists.
Ratatouille the Musical was professionally filmed, performed, and released featuring many Broadway-caliber names for charity. The filmed musical ended up raising over $2 million for The Actors Fund, an organization that raises money to provide emergency financial assistance for arts workers.
With a total of over 350,000 viewers, it marked the largest fundraiser in the history of the organization.
University of Florida student Leah Vicencio was directly involved with the filmed performance as a musician. Being involved with the production opened her eyes to the impact of bringing together unknown creative minds.
“TikTok opens up where you find talent and inspiration. The mission was inspired by the main theme of the Ratatouille movie, ‘anyone can cook.’ Ratatouille the Musical was put together by a community of creatives who were sitting in their homes and ready to share their talents,” said Vicencio.
This entire experience was truly a full-circle moment. The money raised was poured right back into the theatre community to support artists big and small nationwide.
The impact of both musicals stands out as a hopeful highlight in the midst of a destructive pandemic. Not only was money raised to help artists who are struggling to find work at this time, but it also uplifted young, unknown creators from TikTok and put their work directly in the spotlight.
Act 2 – The Future Impact of TikTok Musicals
As those projects run their course, we’re left wondering, what’s next? Was this all just a pandemic induced love-fest? A moment in time, fueled by creators’ pent up need to connect and theatre audiences’ yearning for something, anything, to get excited about? Perhaps.
But maybe, just maybe, this is something different entirely.
This is not necessarily a shiny, new and modern version of what we’ve always known, but rather the start of something all-together transformative. Something where the dynamics are so fundamentally different that its appearance as something familiar is merely an illusion.
Small, unknown creators around the world are now collaborating with each other more than ever, amplified by, and in service of, their audience.
We’d be awestruck by the scale and resonance they achieved with such limited resources by inviting their audience in early and being willing to incorporate the feedback. Then, the contrast becomes stark, almost jarring.
It seems that even as the last virtual standing ovation is petering out, the curtain, rather than coming down, may just be beginning to rise. Gen Z seems to be at the forefront of this modern way of engaging with their favorite brands – through the power of digital communities.
Published by Jenna Bratman, Lead Strategist