When Fossil Ridge High School closed its doors because of the unforeseen pandemic, students were devastated. The creative opportunities that students looked forward to each day vanished amidst all the chaos. However, one student was able to use his free time to spark a TikTok musical movement. Blake Rouse used his songwriting knowledge to be a part of an unexpected and influential project.
It all began with Emily Jacobsen, under the username @e_jaccs posting a song about Remy, the protagonist of the Disney movie, Ratatouille. After watching the initial video by Jacobsen, Rouse was inspired to create a now infamous tango inspired by the movie. The song by Rouse captures a moment between a passionate chef and the protagonist of the film, Linguini, who is new to the restaurant world.
Although it started as a joke and a way to get through the long days of quarantine, TikTok quickly caught on.
Almost everyone on the app has seen it, as there are now over fifteen thousand videos using Jacobsen’s original audio and the hashtag #RatatouilleMusical has over 145 million views on TikTok. And of those, Rouse’s tango is at the top of the list.
With interviews from Colorado Public Radio, Buzzfeed, and even the New York Times, Rouse’s schedule has never been so packed. “I never thought that it would be to where it is now,” said Rouse.
He believes everyone invested in the production of the Ratatouille musical because of the lack of live performances—due to COVID-19. “People are trying to do what they can to get like a theater fix,” Rouse explained.
Before the pandemic, Rouse was preparing to perform as Crutchie with Fossil’s production of the musical Newsies and saw the Ratatouille musical as a way to express his creativity in another way. This also allowed him to perform without worry over COVID-19 restrictions.
“This was something that people could easily get connected to because it was so easy to become a part of it,” claimed Rouse. And many people felt the same way, as the response to these videos was infectious. Thousands of benched theatre kids were inspired to add on more song ideas, choreography, digital set design, and even costume ideas.
Since childhood, he has been writing songs but says his skills have definitely improved since seventh grade. “Writing for theatre is something that I’ve always wanted to do and this was just kind of like a fun opportunity for me to just do what I want to do,” said Rouse.
He grew up surrounded by music and even taught himself how to play piano and guitar. He finds a way to bring a creative perspective to everything he is a part of. Whether it’s COVID-19 restrictions on collaboration or the limits of material, Rouse says that songwriting, “is just a way for me to be creative, without any limitation.”
Rouse tells everyone like him who dreams of becoming a professional songwriter, “Just take every opportunity you can get and it will lead you somewhere if you’re doing 100 percent what you love to do.”
Although that dream has become more like a reality recently, Rouse considers it just the beginning. “It’s definitely the head start to what I want to do for the rest of my life and that’s, that’s all I can really ask for.” Actors from the movie Ratatouille like Patton Oswalt and the director Brad Bird have tweeted his video and opportunities for Rouse’s songwriting keep pouring in.
This viral chain of creativity is about more than just a silly story about Remy the rat, it represents the perseverance of the arts and the power of unity as on January 1, 2021 a virtual concert produced by Josh Abrams will air with Rouse on the songwriting team. Broadway actors will perform these songs for one night only, so Rouse advises people who are eager to watch to get tickets as soon as possible. Purchase tickets here.
Only one ticket per family is necessary, but any donation amount is appreciated as they will benefit The Actor’s Fund, which supports thespians out of work due to the pandemic. Find more information at the program’s website, https://ratatousical.com/.
Rouse will continue to pursue songwriting, and while he does, back here at Fossil students will be cheering him on.
This story was originally published on Etched in Stone on December 14, 2020.