Who ever heard of a Tik Tok Influencer before March of 2020? Well, “Un-Block The Music” now has met one of the top influencers, Dan Mertzlufft who was the composer/music arranger for Ratatouielle, the Tik Tok musical based on the Disney movie that took the virtual world by storm in December. Now, he is proud to talk about his involvement in Breathe debuting virtually May 14.
“Un-Block The Music” has been so fortunate to meet and write about theater influencers through this whole pandemic! As New York (fingers crossed) starts to reopen and dates for live theater FINALLY are starting to be announced, one hope is…theater will also continue to be shared virtually as another source of exposure and income for theater creators. Contrary to popular belief, they that don’t make a lot of money. Anyway.,..back to Dan. Where did this immensely talented man come from? Let’s talk about last summers’ Tik Tok hit Grocery Store Musical. It was Dan’s musical theater arrangement of the Louisa Melcher song, “New York Summer.” Dan’s musical “went uber viral and caught the attention of James Corden.”
After getting his contact info from Twitter, James’ team called Dan. They said while they didn’t have an exact plan, “they wanted to collaborate with me somehow, and wanted to brainstorm. We came up with the idea for Thanksgiving. I wrote 10 different versions and they picked what they liked and we created characters around the theme,” Dan explained.
Despite all of this talk and excitement, Dan said James’ team was transparent right from the very first meeting saying that despite all of the work sometimes things don’t make it to air. “I was thinking Thanksgiving would never make it to air, but I didn’t care, I loved the experience, and they would compensate me no matter what.” Well…not only did it make it to air, Dan and James did a duet together Then James invited some “friends” to make guest appearances. You might recognize those friends: Patti LuPone, Kristin Chenoweth, Audra McDonald, Josh Gad and Josh Groban.
Dan is a teacher and a storyteller. For the last five years, his day job was working for iTheatrics as an associate adapting shows for children. This job embodies his passions. Teaching is something he loves. While he thought at one point, he might be a music teacher, he still teaches in a more nontraditional sense.
With the exception of the James Corden project, how did this relatively unknown musician get involved with Ratatouille, which btw, is nominated for a Webby Award? New York suburban teacher, Emily Jacobsen posted her original song video about Ratatouielle (Disney’s Chef Rat) on Tik Tok. While it was a huge hit there, Dan said, “nobody was talking about making it a musical, so I took it and gave it a full orchestration. My best friend Cory Jaskier and I mixed it and posted it on Tik Tok. That’s when people said ‘this needs to be a musical.’ It was crazy and exciting to see that happening. When Seaview Productions reached out to me to do it, I knew exactly what it needed to be.”
“Un-Block The Music” also interviewed Macy Schmidt and Emily Marshall about the production that certainly received a lot of attention (See story links at the end of this piece). With intense 24 hours a day of work, Ratatouille The Musical was created in a month with only 13 days to record the music. “December was a black hole I emerged from…have little memory!!!,” Dan laughed. “We did one song a day.” Dan started with snippets of songs from several different writers that he made into complete songs. “Kate Leonard wrote the brilliant additional lyrics.”
Now comes Breathe, premiering tomorrow, May 14th!!! Breathe consists of five interlocking suites and examines the impact of COVID-19 on five different relationships. It was conceived and written by novelist Jodi Picoult and playwright Timothy Allen McDonald. There are five short stories with scores created by five songwriting teams, including Dan, Kate and Rebecca Murillo; Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich (Ever After); Rob Rokicki (The Lightning Thief); Doug Besterman (Little Did I Know) and Sharon Vaughn (Hats!); and Douglas Lyons and Ethan Pakchar (Five Points).
The cast includes Kelly O’Hara, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Patti Murin, Colin Donnell, Matt Doyle and Max Clayton.
For tickets, go to https://breathemusical.com/.
Don’t think that’s all Dan is working on! He and Kate Leonard also wrote the music for Dot And The Kangaroo based on the classic Australian children’s book by Ethel Pedley and adapted for stage by Daniel Stoddard. Dan said the show was workshopped in Australia and it was so exciting because everyone was able to be in the same room there! “The show’s progress is moving along quickly,” so stay tuned for updates.
Also, don’t forget to check out results of the Webby Awards being given out on May 18th.
As promised, here are other “Un-Block The Music” stories you may be interested in:
https://unblockthemusic.blog/2021/01/20/more-than-a-triple-threat-douglas-lyons-mission-is-healing-unity-checkout-polkadots/ (Douglas Lyons is also one of the writers on Breathe)