How TikTok Is Changing The World Of Musical Theatre

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In March 2020, the curtains were closed indefinitely in theatres across the world. But in August 2020 the curtains opened in a new way. American schoolteacher Emily Jacobson posted a ‘love ballad’ to Remy from Ratatouille on TikTok. What followed was a rollercoaster of events that no one could have predicted. Other TikTok users began contributing their songs, choreography, and art, and soon, the craze turned into a full musical. On 1 January 2021, Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical was live-streamed to 350,000 viewers, raising $2 million for The Actors Fund. 

This is just one example of what TikTok is doing for the theatre industry. The app is revolutionising the way theatre is created and shared. 

You can’t talk about the huge success of TikTok musicals without mentioning the incredible Bridgerton musical by Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear. It started with one song (‘Oceans Away’) and then grew, just as Ratatouille did. Other users were making choreography, costumes, and art for the show. Barlow and Bear began live-streaming their songwriting sessions. This rare insight gave both aspiring creatives and fans of theatre the opportunity to see what goes into writing a musical. They are helping to break down the barriers of getting into the industry, which can only be a good thing. 

It’s not just the creation of new musicals that TikTok is helping with. Performers are using the app to showcase their talents and sheer love for theatre. One of those performers is Lucy Ireland, who has gained over 149,000 followers since she started using the app in April 2020.

Lucy graduated from Guildford School of Acting in 2019 and was set to make her professional debut in the UK tour of Footloose when the pandemic hit. Rehearsals were cancelled, and Lucy turned to TikTok. Her favourite videos to make are acting challenges and lip syncs because “they’re super fun and I get to practise my craft.” Arguably she is best known for her series ‘performing pop songs as musical theatre songs’. Lucy explains that she “just randomly thought of the idea!”

“Sometimes it takes a while to learn the lyrics so I spend a while preparing, other times I just do it in one take,” she added. 

Lucy has covered a number of popular songs as part of the series, including Taylor Swift’s ‘Wildest Dreams’, which has amassed over 58,000 views.  

For Lucy, TikTok has had a positive impact on theatre: “People I know in the industry are joining the app,” she said. “I think topics are being brought up and issues discussed that could help move the industry forward. It’s giving the arts a wider audience and giving relatively new performers like myself a great platform to post!” 

As for her own career, Lucy said: “Presently, nothing drastic has changed. I have gained a larger following and met some amazing creators and performers online though. I do have an exciting opportunity that may be happening later on in the year which I can’t confirm yet… but fingers crossed!” 

Lucy’s success on TikTok proves that people aren’t just interested in new musicals, but they’re also eager to learn more about the performers, backstage facts, and be involved in fun new challenges. TikTok is reaching people that traditional theatre hasn’t been able to do. 

The community that has grown around musical theatre TikTok is a very wholesome one. Of course, TikTok can never replace live theatre, but it is a great way to keep fans together. 

Words by Orla McAndrew

This article was published as part of The Indiependent‘s May 2021 magazine edition.


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