Like every good musical theatre kid knows, sometimes you just have to dramatically express your inner thoughts and feelings through song, regardless of your location.
This time around, that location is the grocery store. Inspired by Louisa Melcher's "New York Summer" and the corresponding TikTok trend #NewYorkinSeptember, Dan Mertzlufft (@danieljmertzlufft), a New York-based composer and arranger, added a musical theatre twist.
"I've been making TikToks through quarantine as I would hear funny sounds and try to musicalize them, says Mertzlufft, who is also iTheatrics' music associate. "When I heard the line, 'We're fighting in a grocery store, and I love you, but I don't like you,' I was like, 'Oh, this sounds like a modern musical.'" He wrote the orchestrations and put it together in an hour, thinking it would be a fun way to riff on Melcher's original song. Check out his TikTok below:
While the lyrics come from Melcher's "New York Summer," Mertzlufft used his arranger skills to tap into familiar musical ballad tropes, with his captions pointing out the standard techniques used to elicit high stakes in musical theatre, such as the "dramatic pullback" or "added high notes for the diva tenor playing the role."
"There's definitely some Benj [Pasek] and Justin [Paul] inspiration in the power chords. They're the same chords of [Wicked's] 'Defying Gravity' and [Lady Gaga's] 'Poker Face,'" Mertzlufft explains. "It's four chords. It starts in a minor chord, and it has this emotion, but it's somehow still uplifting. It's The Last Five Years, it's Kerrigan and Lowdermilk."
However, Grocery Store: A New Musical quickly and unexpectedly grew its cast, as fellow TikTok users added their own vocal lines and character intentions using TikTok's duet functionality—meaning they can sing along and interact with the original piece of content.
"There were 350 duets within the first 24 hours. I love Alex [Engelberg] and Michael [Spencer]'s TikToks already, so seeing them add onto it was cool."
First, TikTok user @another.blonde made it a duet, calling to mind duets like "First Date/Last Night" from Pasek and Paul's Dogfight and "Goodbye Until Tomorrow/I Could Never Rescue You" from Jason Robert Brown's The Last Five Years.
@kelseyjadebacon added the perspective of the couple's child, feeling reminiscent of "The I Love You Song" from The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.
@ireallylikemusica1s' gave us "The Employee" point of view.
@alexengelberg as "A Can of Soup."
@themichaelspencer as "The Squeaky Wheel on the Shopping Cart."
@stevenglukas as "The Automatic Door With The Too Loud Bell."
And as a button, @igorandwheezy offers "The Water Sprayers That Always Mist You When You're Reaching for the Kale."
These are just a few of the collaborations; make sure to take look at all of them here.
As for what's next: "I did write another song about when [the couple] met in the grocery store that I put on TikTok. I want to ride the wave of silliness. TikTok is the one place I allow myself to go and not think about the stressors of the world, so I want to make content that helps myself and others escape for a little bit. But who knows? I'd love to do a full-length musical of TikTok trends Off-Broadway."