The rise of TikTok musicals and their future

During the pandemic, with most people at home producing and watching lots of content, TikTok has certainly evolved. 

According to CNBC, in January 2019 there were around 27 million TikTok users in the United States, which later rose to approximately 91 million in June 2020, a few months into the self-isolation surge. 

TikTok musicals, which are musical concepts produced on the social media platform, are the next big up-and-coming niche that has some people overjoyed and others questioning the merit of these musicals produced by TikTokers.

Freshman and vocal performance major Margaret Greene has been performing for several years and isn’t very interested in TikTok. 

Greene said she is unsure if TikTok musicals would ever turn into full-scale productions, but there is an interested audience. 

“I think everyone expresses their interest in different ways, and it’s not really my thing but I can respect it,” Greene said.

Although Greene doesn’t think TikTok musicals are a way to perform musical theater, her roommate Katelyn Mason has a different opinion. 

Freshman Katelyn Mason, a choral music education major at NAU, has an entirely different perspective on TikTok musicals and their impact as an avid watcher. 

“I think they’re [TikTok musicals] making musicals more accessible,” Mason said. “Broadway musicals are so expensive, but making them online lets other people get excited about them and kind of participate in the process of the musical.”

TikTok creators joined forces to release “Ratatouille: The Musical” Jan. 1, while TikTok’s latest musical, “Bridgerton: The Musical”  recently had part 12 posted by TikTok user Abigail Barlow Feb. 6. 

Greene recognizes TikTok musicals aren’t for her, but said they certainly have an influence on the entertainment industry.

“So many people now are using TikTok, and if you ever wanted to get your message out there, that would be the way to do it,” Greene said.

TikTok’s “Ratatouille: The Musical” united over 200 million viewers to raise money for The Actors Fund, an organization that helps provide financial support to those struggling in the entertainment industry. 

COVID has changed how the entertainment industry operates, with Broadway suspending all performances until May 30, 2021, but still allowing the purchase of tickets for upcoming shows.

Greene commented further on COVID’s impact on how entertainment is produced and shared with consumers.

“[COVID] set us back a little bit because most people in the entertainment industry are used to performing in front of audiences,” Greene said. “It’s definitely a different atmosphere when you’re not performing in front of real people. If you’re just performing in front of a camera or a livestream I think it just affects how we perform because it’s a different vibe.”

TikTok musicals may be how Broadway and other theater companies can get back into the scene and regularly perform, although it would look different from anything produced before. 

“I think that [Broadway] should be trying to do [remote productions] just because of everything going on, but at the same time I don’t think that it’s a very effective way to do things like musical theater,” Greene said. 

Mason is in full support of TikTok’s musicals, often watching many of her favorite TikTokers on the platform since they’re involved in musicals.

Mason said the TikTokers she is currently following the most are Abigail Barlow, Emily Bear and Anna-Lee Wright.

Barlow and Bear are the co-creators and producers of “Bridgerton: The Musical” circulating on TikTok, with Wright, a Broadway member sharing her experiences with the company on her TikTok. 

“Lately, I’ve been following ‘Bridgerton: The Musical’ just because I like the show so much,” Mason said. 

Although Mason enjoys the app and the musicals the platform has to offer, she is not confident Broadway would go for TikTok’s style of production and theater approach. 

“I think my first instinct is to say no, that Broadway is pretty traditional and they have a set way that’s worked ... but I do think there would have to be a huge shift in the way Broadway works for TikTok musicals to actually make it to full production,” Mason said. 

TikTok musicals can be the new era of theater and possibly change the way young people and audiences respond to musicals and the arts in general. 

Broadway might consider turning a full TikTok musical idea or production and transform it into a full-scale musical with the highest quality resources available, although there are legal matters and logistics issues which would need to be addressed before a collaboration or adaptation could begin.

“I do think that if the musicals on TikTok were to be transferred to onstage, they would have to completely rethink how they do Broadway show production like the process of putting shows on Broadway ... the issues of rights, who they give credit to, who would get royalties and stuff,” Mason said. 

The rise of TikTok musicals is not yet at its peak, and there is no telling what the future has in store for future productions and collaborations.