Move over “Hamilton” — the next historically-inspired Broadway musical is on its way. However, this time, it has blown up on TikTok instead of a New York stage.
Just weeks after a theatre company performed and streamed the world’s first TikTok musical — a rendition of the Disney film “Ratatouille” — singer-songwriter Abigail Barlow finished bingeing the Netflix series “Bridgerton” and fell in love with the story. Inspired by the TV show’s regency-era romance, Barlow began scribbling in her songbook.
On Jan. 10, Barlow debuted a snippet of “Daphne’s Song,” now known as “Ocean Away,” in a TikTok video. Although that first video currently stands at an impressive 1.5 million views on the app, the song that truly sent the concept of “Bridgerton: The Musical” into viral territory was “Burn for You,” which Barlow posted later that same day. Passionate and yearning, “Burn For You” has garnered 5.5 million views thus far, along with over 829,000 likes and 15,500 comments.
After Barlow had fully processed the incredible reaction to her first two videos, she knew she couldn’t do the rest alone. She recruited Emily Bear, a former child piano prodigy who was mentored by musician Quincy Jones and who has spent the last 10 years studying orchestration and composition at The Juilliard School and New York University.
Since forming the partnership, Barlow and Bear have written nine more songs, with a tenth almost finished. The compositions include songs for the characters Penelope Featherington, Eloise Bridgerton, Siena Rosso and Lady Violet.
In response to the overwhelmingly positive feedback from fans, Barlow soon began arranging and posting instrumental versions online to which fans can sing along. People also began getting involved with the “Bridgerton” musical by composing their own songs, creating concepts for Playbill programs and even choreographing entire dance numbers — all of which have since been added to the TikTok page @bridgertonmusical.
Outside of the mainstream, Barlow and Bear have even received attention from Broadway star Samantha Barks — best known for her role as Eponine in the 2012 film adaptation of “Les Misérables” — several “Bridgerton” cast members as well as the author of the “Bridgerton” novels herself, Julia Quinn.
As for what’s next, only time will tell, but Barlow and Bear say both a concept album and a Broadway production are possibilities. “We’re trying to keep our wits about us and finish the project as well, just so that we have something solid to share with people,” Barlow said. “But the dream, of course, would be Broadway. Wouldn’t that be nice, if the world opened back up and we could put on ‘Bridgerton: The Musical’?”
But no matter what happens with “Bridgerton: The Musical,” Barlow believes the post-COVID-19 world of theater will be a more inclusive place, in part because of the ideas that have sparked on TikTok. “It’s a very exciting time for music and for musical theater,” Barlow said. “The gatekeepers that be are kind of no longer in power. The people have the power, and that’s an exciting thing.”