While most have been hoping that things associated with 2020 stay in 2020, there's one beloved trend following us into 2021: TikTok musical adaptations. This time, it’s Bridgerton.
The new Netflix series, which announced its season two renewal January 21, is described as a Regency-era Gossip Girl, following a group of families as they navigate London’s marriage and social scene. Following season one’s release on December 25, the Shondaland-produced series quickly inspired a flurry of social media reactions and responses. Among them, TikTok creator Abigail Barlow, who shared a musical theatre take with a song from the perspective of Daphne Bridgerton, the series’ leading lady.
“When I binged Bridgerton, it was just immediate to me that it belonged on the stage,” says Barlow. “[Sir Henry Granville] says, ‘You have no idea what it’s like to be in a room with someone you can’t live without and feel like you’re oceans away from them,’ and I was like ‘That’s a song!’ So I went to my piano and made a TikTok, and it happened to resonate with everyone.”
Soon Barlow and her writing partner Emily Bear were writing more songs and releasing TikToks for each of Bridgerton’s leading characters, with Bear orchestrating the arrangements and producing official tracks.
“We wanted to do what Bridgerton did, which is take this 1800s period piece and infuse it with modern elements,” says Bear. “We know all of the Top 40 songs, we grew up with musical theatre, and with Abigail’s pop sensibilities and my classical style, we really complement each other. That’s what Bridgerton did so well on screen and we want to translate that.”
One of the TikToks Barlow and Bear wrote was “Burn For You,” a duet for Daphne and Simon Basset, the Duke of Hastings. It caught the attention of many singing TikTokers, including Nick Daly, a University of Michigan musical theatre acting and playwriting student, and the winner of Playbill’s 2020 Search for a Star contest.
“I am a big Bridgerton fan, so when Abigail Barlow's original TikTok showed up on my For You Page, I was absolutely enamored with it—especially when she introduced Emily Bear as her writing partner! Emily is just a musical beast!” says Daly.
Daly adds, “In the series, Simon is a Black romantic lead. That just doesn't happen in period pieces. I loved that Bridgerton includes Black and Brown characters in spaces that have historically excluded them. This allows Black and Brown audience members to be invested in the universe of the story—the beautiful, complex, 19th century world that is the Bridgerton universe.”
The duet between Daly and Barlow garnered the attention of Netflix’s official TikTok account and even carried over to the streaming platform’s other social media channels.
Absolutely blown away by the Bridgerton musical playing out on TikTok
— Netflix (@netflix) January 13, 2021
And like its TikTok musical predecessor, Ratatouille, Bridgerton has been inspiring creatives beyond songwriters and musicians, including choreography from @elchoreography and scenic design from @katieoxmanofficial.
Reposting this INCREDIBLE CHOREOGRAPHY BY @elchoreography because WHATTT �������� ##bridgertonmusical
Just two weeks after Barlow’s initial TikTok, she and Bear are now hunkering down to finish orchestrating their songs and craft more tracks for a full-fledge Bridgerton musical. The pair shared an exclusive listen to the full song “Balancing the Scales,” which would be performed by Daphne, Lady Violet Bridgerton, and Lady Danbury. Listen to the track above.
“We want to be fresh and exciting,” says Barlow. “As young women, we try to say everything in a clever way. Maybe they are things that have been said before but they have never been said in the way we want to say them.”
Bear adds, “It’s really cool to see mainstream audiences fall in love with musical theatre again. I think [Dear Evan Hansen songwriters Benj] Pasek and [Justin] Paul and Lin-Manuel [Miranda] started that. Being able to contribute and continue that movement is really special and dear to our hearts.”
Both Pasek and Paul and Miranda are no strangers to seeing their own work on stage and screen, so which medium is the Bridgerton TikTok musical heading towards? Barlow and Bear don’t know what form it will be taking yet—they said it could be a Broadway stage, a live-streamed TikTok concert, or a concept album.
“We have a lot of exciting paths that could happen, and we’re talking to a lot of different people,” says Bear. “With COVID-19, too, it’s going to be a while before season two is up, and fans will want content, so we’re excited that we can create something for them."
They also have received acknowledgment from Bridgerton cast member Jonathan Bailey (who plays Anthony Bridgerton), who has his own ties to the the stage—like starring as Jamie in the 2016 London production of Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years alongside Samantha Barks.
Regardless of what form it takes, Barlow and Bear are excited to make this musical for fans of the show, and are mindful they want to make it as accessible and inclusive as possible for those who would might not be able to attend a Broadway show even after it reopens. They're also interested in working alongside up-and-coming artists—like Daly— while carrying out this vision.
“I’d be happy if I were cast as a floorboard—I’m just so inspired by the work that Abigail and Emily are doing,” says Daly. “I’m often asked what my dream role is, and I typically say that it hasn’t been written yet. But the vocals for Simon are so beautiful, Simon would absolutely be my dream role. Their passion sparks passion. I think that's very evident in the public response that they've gotten.”