Remember last winter when everyone in the world was watching “Bridgerton”? While some people just enjoyed the show, others used the hit Netflix series as a source of inspiration. In the latter category fall Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear, who together form Barlow & Bear.
In early January, Barlow posted a video on her TikTok account, not expecting it to reach thousands of people. In it, she asks the audience, “Okay, but what if ‘Bridgerton’ was a musical?” and then proceeds to sing an opening verse to a song she wrote, inspired by the relationship between Daphne and Simon. The next day, she posted another video featuring a song titled “Burn for You.”
This one reached even more people and garnered even more attention from “Bridgerton” fans, TikTok users and musical theatre enthusiasts alike. Slowly but surely, other TikTok users, including a School of Music, Theatre & Dance student, began to post “duets” with Barlow, singing Simon’s parts while Barlow sang Daphne’s.
Little did Barlow know that her small videos would grow into an entire concept album just a few months later.
Released Sept. 10, 2021, Barlow & Bear’s “Unofficial Bridgerton Musical” album simultaneously reached number one on the iTunes Pop Charts and thrilled expectant fans everywhere. The soundtrack is beautiful in its simplicity and individuality. The songs are co-written by the two young women, sung almost entirely by Barlow and composed by Bear. Though the album lasts a short 38-minute runtime, the musical qualities are present in the sweeping instrumental moments and in the Broadway-style vocals.
Barlow sings almost all the parts — switching her voices easily between a sweet, high-pitched British voice for Daphne, a rich low tone for Simon’s lines, a fun and feisty sound for Eloise and an operatic Queen, among others. The one song Bear sings, “Penelope Featherington,” fits her quiet, shy tonality well.
The songs on the album range greatly in style, but all maintain the common thread of “Bridgerton.” We have a typical Broadway opener in “Tis the Season,” which introduces us to the cast of characters in an excitable manner. Eloise’s song “If I Were a Man” and Siena’s powerful independence bop “Fool for You” are sure to be iconic feminist musical theatre songs from now on. The romantic ballad “Alone Together” features beautiful lyrics like “we could escape / into the painting / colored in green and gilded in gold.”
My personal favorite, “Every Inch,” with its rain-like piano parts, best displays the talents of Barlow & Bear. Barlow, unfazed by singing both Simon and Daphne’s parts, reaches beautiful notes and sings with such emotion that, when closing your eyes, you can see these songs taking place on stage. Bear’s compositions are dynamic and meaningful, especially when, in true Broadway fashion, hints of musical motifs from some songs make their way into the instrumentation of others.
Musical theatre is an underrated category of music, which is truly a shame. Some of the most talented performers in the world can be found on Broadway’s stages. Barlow & Bear might not be on stage for their performances (yet), but they are on their way to reaching the quality of some of the most renowned Broadway stars.
What’s more impressive than their musical talent, though, is their sheer dedication to their craft and their fans. They showcased their entire writing and composing process over Instagram and TikTok live streams, sometimes on camera for hours on end so their fans could watch the two make magic before their very eyes.
Through this whole process, despite their increasing fame, Barlow & Bear remained true to themselves, very clearly working on this project because they loved “Bridgerton” and had fun writing music. Even when well-known stars dropped in on Instagram live streams, like Pasek and Paul’s Justin Paul (of “Dear Evan Hansen,” “La La Land” and University of Michigan fame), and shocked them with praise (“Tell me you’ve been writing this for years except that’s not possible”), they stayed level-headed … after fangirling a little bit.
Performances alongside musical theatre favorites like another University alum Darren Criss did the same thing: excited them, but never changed their love for their craft. Even their recent performance at the Kennedy Center only added to their experience, to their devotion to their work.
It’s inspiring to see success like that, where people rise just by doing what they love. And to see that they’ve made waves in the musical theatre community is even more meaningful. They’ve used their platform to bring the genre to more people.
I’ll be honest: I haven’t watched “Bridgerton.” But after following the creation of this album and listening to it non-stop since its release, I might just have to give the show a chance.
Daily Film Beat Editor Sabriya Imami can be reached at email@example.com.