How the musical “Bridgerton” is changing theater culture

Like sourdough and “Tiger King,” “TikTok musical” was a trend early in the pandemic — starting with “Ratatouilleand culminating in “Bridgerton.” When Broadway (and therefore all regional and local theaters) closed for nearly a year and a half, creators collaborated in cyberspace to develop full-fledged portable musicals.

These social media musicals often start small, converting an existing work like a movie or TV show into a musical format. When these popular TikTok music videos go viral, the following creators add their own twist in the form of lyrics, melodies, choreography or orchestration. New Year’s Day 2021, a star-studded TikTok version of the Disney film Ratatouille raised $2 million for the Actor Fund and won a Webby.

While the charming, family-friendly “Ratatouille” may have started the TikTok music trend, very different sources have influenced one of its most popular creations. “Bridgerton,” a Regency-era romance, has been turned into Bridgerton’s Unofficial Musical concept album, a compilation of songs originally created on TikTok. The scrapbook, currently nominated for the 2022 GRAMMYsis the first musical of its kind to receive a GRAMMY nomination for Best Musical Theater Album.

Bridgerton’s the nominated composers, lyricists and performers are Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear – the only women nominated in their category. At 23 and 20, they are also making history as the youngest nominees in their category and the youngest nominees for a musical theater GRAMMY. They met through friends and, while working together on “one-offs” before Bridgerton, this is their first official collaboration.

Barlow and Bear’s songs are pop-influenced and catchy, more reminiscent of the hits of the singer/songwriters of Sara Barellis and Olivia Rodrigue than classic showtunes. The team’s appointment signals an important cultural musical moment, a time when musical creation can result from years of development by experienced professionals and investors, but can also come from passionate newcomers to a social media application.

Very few musicals are based on TV shows (“Addams Family” and “the SpongeBob Musical” are notable exceptions) and “Bridgerton” is the first and so far only TikTok musical to achieve mainstream success. offline audience. In October, Barlow and Bear performed at Kennedy Center and were joined by Broadway and “Glee” alum Darren Criss for one act.

Application position, Barlow and Bear teamed up with compatriot Andrew Lloyd Webber in December for a “Cinderella/Bridgerton” mashup shared on Webber’s Instagram. They may have been new to the scene before “Bridgerton,” but Barlow and Bear quickly carved out a place for themselves among the theatrical community.

Barlow and Bear – who sat together in the same room, their obvious affection for each other on display on Zoom – explained how they created Bridgerton’s unofficial concept album.

From an idea to a viral sensation

Barlow, a pop singer with musical theater roots, says she thought of the first song in the Musical “Bridgerton” shortly after the show’s debut in January 2021.

Before posting, she sent it to Bear. “I knew it wasn’t going to be real without Emily,” she said. In less than 45 minutes, Bear – a piano prodigy who enjoyed her first 15 minutes of fame at 6 years old in “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” – returned the fully orchestrated song.

The post, titled “What if ‘Bridgerton’ was a musical? » went viral and the two began collaborating on more songs on the hit Netflix series. Unlike other nominees for Best Musical Theater Album – many of which were years in the making or based on songs already written – the Bridgerton The concept album was written quickly: 15 songs over six weeks in early 2021.

The seamless process was documented via live TikTok and Instragam streams, incorporating comments from commentators. Bear says the multi-hour live streams were “very vulnerable,” with audiences sometimes patiently watching the two having writer’s block. The process felt like “an instant workshop”, Bear recalls, with Barlow adding that “what appealed to the ordinary person was that it’s not always pretty”.

Singers, choreographers and dancers have made videos using the songs, and in a world without theatre, the TikTok musical has allowed people to find community. At a time when mental health crises are on the rise, especially among young people, Barlow and Bear were blown away by the support. Bear says fans told him the musical content of “Bridgerton” was what they looked forward to every day. “I can’t get used to the idea that what we’ve created can help people,” she says, adding, “It’s [also] helped us.

Become agents of change in musical theater

Musicals made in the first half of the 20th century often consisted of contemporary pop songs embedded in storylines, similar to today’s jukebox musicals – a nominated category this year, “Girl from North Country” and last year’s winner, “Jagged Little Pill” fall into.

However, although the trend is for new musicals to be created by known stars, this has not always been the case. Bear referenced a rare piece in musical theater history: 73 years Andrew Lloyd Webberwhose Cinderella is in competition with Bridgerton for Best Musical Theater Album this year, debuted at age 20 with a 15-minute version of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” he had workshop for a school show in 1968. “Bridgerton” comes full circle in musical theater history by reviving the tradition of newcomers using a popular musical style, ironically clashing with those who did it first.

Bridgerton’s Unofficial Musical The concept album was released on September 10, 2021, nine months after Barlow directed the first TikTok “Bridgerton”. Within two hours, the album was iTunes’ No. 1 US pop album and charted in its top 10 worldwide.

A historic GRAMMY nomination

Bridgerton’s Unofficial Musical was nominated with musical theater legends Webber (“Cats”, “Phantom of the Opera”), Stephane Schwartz (“Bad”), Burt Bacarach (“The Boy from Oz”) and Steven Sater (“Spring Awakening”). Also nominated are a concert “Les Miserables” and “Girl From the North Country,” a musical using Bob Dylanthe songs of.

Of the 26 people nominated in this category across six shows, Barlow and Bear stand out by gender and age. Barlow and Bear represent Generation Z, a population little known for theatrical patronage, but a powerful force in the music industry otherwise. Their inclusion marks a historic shift in the way musicals are created and celebrated.

TikTok: The future of musical theatre?

Most of these musicals are not currently on Broadway and reflect the period when theaters went dark. The nominated version of “Cinderella” is also a concept album, billed as a recorded work in the musical theater genre, but not necessarily a reflection of a live performance.

Although netflix and the tv show starsas good as author of the book “Bridgerton”, praised the musical, there are currently no plans for a stage show. Barlow and Bear don’t own the intellectual property rights to “Bridgerton” and the concept album will remain on the back burner unless Netflix wants to pursue it.

“That ball is completely in Netflix’s court,” Barlow says. If the popularity of the Netflix series – whose second season drops on March 25 – combines with support and accolades from TikTok fans, the concept album could one day become a lucrative live show.

Ahead of the new season, fans are wondering if Barlow and Bear will turn to TikTok for a sequel. The pair plan to watch season two — “’who knows when inspiration will strike,’” teases Bear.

Even if Bridgerton doesn’t win a GRAMMY on April 3, his recognition is a sign that the culture around content creation is changing. It’s no longer a home for elite legends, creating a product in secret and only sharing it once it’s finished. Barlow predicts that in the future, “people will want to see behind the curtain. Theater is a protected art form. You can’t see a show until you pay $200 for a ticket.

With the TikTok musical, she says, “people who wouldn’t go to the theater are now into it and want to see the stuff.”

The duo is currently working on several projects, including one with Margot Robbie’s production company. They are also working on an unnamed show, completely new and separate from Bridgerton. Barlow says she is now documenting the process to share when they can.

One day, the duo would like to develop a musical, a show or another album while showing people the process along the way. Bear says people “listen to songs every day but they don’t know how they are created. Opening the curtain on these processes would be so great.

Barlow says there’s a stigma about “musical theater from the hands of jazz,” but “anything can be musical theater. Any genre can tell a story. Now, music and musicals can be bolstered by community, fan response, and even social media. What seemed like a passing trend could be the new way we create and consume content.

‘Jagged Little Pill’ Wins Best Musical Theater Album | 2021 GRAMMY Awards Ceremony