TikTok is funding its first musical, “For You, Paige”

After dominate the internet with its short videos, TikTok is taking its content to the next level, literally.

The video-sharing platform has ordered its first musical, “For You, Paige,” which will be performed live from a New York theater at 4 p.m. PT on Thursday and posted on the platform. Although funding a musical might seem like a strange project for a social media company, TikTok has become a hub for music creators and fans. The upcoming production comes less than two weeks after composers Emily Bear and Abigail Barlow won a Grammy Award for their musical theater album, “The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical,” which originated on TikTok.

“For You, Paige” – a pun referencing TikTok’s content stream – was created by Daniel Mertzlufft, who serves as executive producer, composer, co-writer and music supervisor. The story follows teenage songwriter Landon (played by Roman Banks), who collaborates with her best friend Paige (Sri Ramesh) on a song inspired by Paige’s favorite young adult book series, “Utopia.” When a video of Landon performing the song goes viral on (where else?) TikTok, Landon is approached by a producer offering him a chance to adapt “Utopia” into a feature-length musical. Only one problem: Landon’s vault into stardom leaves Paige behind.

“When we were talking about it with TikTok, they really wanted to invest in the musical theater community and show their support for the amazing content [that creators are posting on the platform]Mertzlufft told dot.LA. (Neither Mertzlufft nor TikTok disclosed the social media company’s financial contribution to the project. TikTok representatives did not return multiple requests for comment.)

Executive producer Daniel Mertzlufft.

Courtesy of Will Parker

Mertzlufft knows firsthand how Culver City-based TikTok can turn a viral video into a legitimate music production. He was a creative leader for “Ratatouille: the TikTok musical” a live-streamed concert produced last year that raised more than $2 million for The Actor’s Fund, a nonprofit that supports professionals in the performing arts.

The origins of this project go back to a August 2020 video posted by TikTok user Emily Jacobson, who uploaded a love ballad about Remy’s character from the Pixar movie “Ratatouille.” The song took off months later when Mertzlufft posted his own version, which had racked up 2.6 million views as of Tuesday. The video prompted many TikTokers to contribute their own ideas for the upcoming musical, sparking a #RatatouilleMusical hashtag that has garnered over 308 million views to date.

Why does TikTok lend itself so well to musicals? For Mertzlufft, that’s because the app is essentially an open forum for creators to share ideas and get feedback, without needing a group of followers to be discovered. Its video editing tools also allow creators like Mertzlufft to easily jazz up their clips with a faux orchestra or backup vocals. He noted that other interest-based communities have also thrived on the platform—like #BookTokwhere literature enthusiasts discuss the books they have read.

“It’s really an entertainment platform in that it’s not about who you follow, it’s about the content,” Mertzlufft said.

“For You, Paige” was written specifically for TikTok’s vertical screen presentation. Characters will position themselves onstage to be captured by one of the theater’s three cameras, standing in places that might not make sense to a live audience, Mertzlufft said. (Due to COVID-19 precautions, the show will not be presented to live audiences.) Staging one of the first musicals created for vertical viewing was an “exciting challenge”, said said Mertzlufft.

“That’s what most of the rehearsals are for today: figuring out exactly where those cameras are,” he said.

“For you, Paige” is filled with TikTok references in dialogue that eager users will understand, Mertzlufft said. But die-hard TikTok fans won’t be able to get too close to the show, and not just because of COVID precautions: Mertzlufft declined to share the name of the New York theater staging the production.

“We’re concerned about people showing up at the theater, and we just don’t have the security and all that,” he said. “But it’s a theater in New York, and we’re very excited about it.”

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