The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical
|Title||The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical|
|Date(s)||September 10, 2021|
|External link(s)||Official Site|
|Related articles on Fanlore.|
The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical, colloquially referred to as just "the Bridgerton Musical," is a concept album written by Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear. Based on the Netflix series and written primarily on TikTok in 2021, the album retells the plot of the first season. It is well-beloved among fans, many of whom only watched Bridgerton because of the musical's popularity. The album also has had many fans who had never seen the source material in a interesting example of recursive fandom.
The album won a Grammy Award after being released and subsequently Barlow and Bear put on several performances of the musical, with one being staged at the Kennedy Center in New York. These performances caused the pair to run into legal troubles with Netflix.
In January 2021, Barlow released a tiktok asking the question "Okay, but what if Bridgerton was a musical?" and singing a snippet of what was then called "Daphne's Song" and eventually became "Ocean Away." The video garnered attention and 15 more tracks were written for the musical over a relatively short period in early 2021, with much of the process being transparently conducted over livestreams on Instagram and TikTok that lasted hours. Fans quickly began collaborating with Barlow & Bear over TikTok, with people posting duets with the songs, covering them, or dancing to them. After the explosive popularity and success of Ratatouille: The Musical, it seemed like The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical was the evolution of the "TikTok musical."
Early on in the process, the Netflix account reposted a duet between Barlow and Nick T. Daly to their Twitter account, boosting the musical's popularity. It also got attention from some of the people involved in Bridgerton, leading fans to clamor for it to actually be produced for the stage. Early on the process, it was clear that Barlow & Bear were aiming for a Broadway production of their musical, which was odd given that it was clearly fan-produced work without express permission from Netflix. Theatre fans who enjoyed Bridgerton were cautiously hopeful about the project, but concerned about the way things were proceeding at this point. Shortly after the bulk of the music was completed, Barlow & Bear began teasing an album. This included posting a video with Darren Criss onto their joint instagram and performing several songs from the musical at Elsie Fest in August.
In September 2021, the concept album was released and quickly rose to the top of the charts, garnering multiple millions of streams on Spotify. Following the album's release, Barlow & Bear performed "Ocean Away" at Kennedy Center's 50th Anniversary Concert, again with Darren Criss. They also performed several of the songs during "An Evening with Barlow & Bear" at Leicester Square. Interestingly, the final version of The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical featured none of the collaborative aspects of the musical on TikTok and *only* featured songs written by Barlow and Bear, with Barlow singing all of the songs and Bear providing the musical backing. This was in stark contrast to Ratatouille: The Musical, which was a collaborative project between many composers and artists.
The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical subsequently won Best Musical Theater Album at the 64th Grammy Awards after being self-submitted by the pair. Following the Grammy win, Barlow and Bear appeared on the Kelly Clarkson show, again performing a song from the concept album. They also announced that they would be performing the album in concert at the Kennedy Center in July and at Royal Albert Hall in September.
Following the concert at the Kennedy Center, Netflix sued Barlow & Bear for copyright infringement. In the Deadline article that broke the news, statements from Netflix, Shonda Rhimes, and Julia Quinn were included that seemed to indicate that this was not the outcome any party involved wanted but the one that they were forced to choose.
Netflix supports fan-generated content, but Barlow & Bear have taken this many steps further, seeking to create multiple revenue streams for themselves without formal permission to utilize the Bridgerton IP. We’ve tried hard to work with Barlow & Bear, and they have refused to cooperate. The creators, cast, writers and crew have poured their hearts and souls into Bridgerton, and we’re taking action to protect their rights.
There is so much joy in seeing audiences fall in love with Bridgerton and watching the creative ways they express their fandom. What started as a fun celebration by Barlow & Bear on social media has turned into the blatant taking of intellectual property solely for Barlow & Bear’s financial benefit. This property was created by Julia Quinn and brought to life on screen through the hard work of countless individuals. Just as Barlow & Bear would not allow others to appropriate their IP for profit, Netflix cannot stand by and allow Barlow & Bear to do the same with Bridgerton.
Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear are wildly talented, and I was flattered and delighted when they began composing Bridgerton songs and sharing with other fans on TikTok. There is a difference, however, between composing on TikTok and recording and performing for commercial gain. I would hope that Barlow & Bear, who share my position as independent creative professionals, understand the need to protect other professionals’ intellectual property, including the characters and stories I created in the Bridgerton novels over twenty years ago.
The lawsuit states that while Netflix thought that the project was fun when it was clearly fan-driven, live performances were where they strictly drew the line because those would directly compete with their own Bridgerton live experience. The Queen's Ball isn't strictly a musical, but the event caters to the same crowd that would be interested in seeing a Bridgerton musical. As in many cases of fanwork being sued, such as Axanar, the issue was not so much the fanwork itself but the fact that the fanwork was being commercialized to the extent that it could no longer be ignored. A smaller issue in the lawsuit is Barlow & Bear's use of the name "Bridgerton," which Netflix owns a registered trademark on. Promotional materials for the Kennedy Center concert stated that the trademark was "used with permission" but this was apparently not the case according to Netflix.
While feelings were initially split between supporting Netflix's actions and thinking they were acting in bad faith going after smaller creators, these statements and subsequent sharing of certain claims in the legal documents related to the lawsuit changed people's opinions. Among these was the widely shared part where Netflix asserted that they offered Barlow & Bear a license that would allow them to proceed with their scheduled live performances and perhaps continue performing them going forward, which Barlow & Bear turned down. Many people stated that although they didn't want to be on Netflix's side, it was hard to justify what Barlow & Bear had done in staging the concept album as a concert in place known to be at the center of the Broadway community.
It was also brought up that while many people supported fair use, they were unsure of whether or not this project would even qualify as such. Many people compared Barlow and Bear's musical to StarKid Productions, the major difference between these things is that A Very Potter Musical and Twisted clearly fall under the category of parody and transformative work, which The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical is very much not as a sincere and honest adaptation of the source material. For example, when the first two minutes of the show itself are overlaid with the opening song of the musical, "Tis The Season," the dialogue present in the show lines up almost entirely 1:1 with the song. Many of the songs similarly lift entire scenes from the Netflix show and put them to music without any semblance of the parody aspects that make Starkid shows qualify as parody such as Cho Chang being played by a white woman and her introduction being set to incredibly Orientalist music to highlight the way J.K. Rowling handles race.
Starkid's musicals are also not named things that would cause people to mistake them for an official adaptation the way The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical (which, again, is often simply referred to as "the Bridgerton musical") is. This was also the case for the incredibly similar Ratatouille: The Musical, with the difference there being that Ratatouille was livestreamed strictly for charity a single time, rather than being a for-profit event. They also received permission from Disney to put on their event, a thing Netflix explicitly denied Barlow and Bear.
The lawsuit also caused some fans to wonder about the future of fanworks in general. Following the lawsuit being filed, Barlow & Bear cancelled their concert at Royal Albert Hall. In September 2022, it was announced that Netflix had settled the lawsuit out of court with Barlow and Bear.
Ginny & Georgia Bridgerton Parody
The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical came back into the limelight in January 2023 after another Netflix show, Ginny & Georgia, featured a seemingly Bridgerton-based musical called "Wellington" in S2E8. This led to many jokes about how Netflix was finally getting to put on their Bridgerton musical and fan speculation that it was a direct response to Netflix's troubles with the The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical.
actually dying at the bridgerton official musical shade in #ginnyandgeorgia season 2
WHY DID GINNY AND GEORGIA SPOOF THE UNOFFICIAL BRIDGERTON MUSICAL IM DYING>!?!??!?
listen, I skipped the second half of bridgerton for... reasons but the Musical is seriously so amazing and why are the songs all so catchy hfjdkhsjk
I fucking hate Bridgerton with a passion but I will admit the hypothetical musical two girls made on Tik Tok actually slaps
THE UNOFFICIAL BRIDGERTON MUSICAL IS SO STUNNING AND CATCHY!! LIKE, CAN WE GET A BROADWAY VERSION RTFN?!?!
the “ao3 isn’t even paying the authors” discourse is mad funnier by the fact that like three months ago twitter had a laugh at the unofficial bridgerton musical people getting sued by netflix for not only infringing on intellectual property but having the audacity to sell merch
people talking about how ao3 should pay their writers have clearly never followed the unofficial bridgerton musical lawsuit and it shows. (i know it has nothing to do with ao3 but still copyright infringement so my point stands)
i am head over heels in love with the unofficial bridgerton musical, its literally so well written and listening to it makes me feel the same way i felt when i first saw bridgerton
I had never actually listened to the Bridgerton Musical songs before this and now that I’ve listened to it, I honestly don’t think that you can classify these songs as Barlow and Bear’s “original works” because unlike A Very Potter Musical, where the lyrics, script, etc. were different than the Harry Potter movies and books, most, if not all of the lyrics in Barlow and Bear’s songs, are quite literally straight up verbatim stolen from the dialogue of the show.
i’ve been reading all morning about the whole Barlow and Bear vs Netflix debacle and what this is really hammering home for me is that fandoms have entered this period where now that fanfiction and other fanworks are so readily available that they think that they can do anything. When you really can’t. Stop trying to make money off of your fanworks. You’re literally going to ruin it for everybody.
Have I seen Bridgerton? No. But am I listening to The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical on loop just because the two female artists make it sound sapphic? Absolutely.
I mean why did they not simply call it Holy Musical Br@gerton
- ocean away | bridgerton musical - daphne & simon, a fanvid set to one of the songs
- Penelope Featherington, a gif set featuring lyrics from one of the songs
- Bridgerton The Musical, fanart for the musical
- I have a hand fetish, more fanart for the musical
- Why Bridgerton Fans Turned Against the Bridgerton Musical
- The Netflix v. 'Unofficial Bridgerton Musical' lawsuit, explained
- Tweet. Posted 10 Dec 2022. Accessed 1 Feb 2023.
- Tweet. Posted 29 Jul 2022. Accessed 1 Feb 2023.
- Tweet. Posted 6 Oct 2021. Accessed 1 Feb 2023.
- Tweet. Posted 3 Oct 2021. Accessed 1 Feb 2023.
- Tweet. Psted 22 Dec 2022. Accessed 1 Feb 2023.
- Tweet. Posted 9 Sept 2021. Accessed 1 Feb 2023.
- TikTok by @abigailbarlowww. Posted 10 Jan 2021. Accessed 15 Aug 2022.
- From TikTok Trend to GRAMMY Nominee: How The 'Bridgerton' Musical Is Changing Theater Culture. Posted 24 Mar 2022. Accessed 15 Aug 2022.
- Tweet from @netflix. Posted 13 Jan 2021. Accessed 15 Aug 2022.
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- Bridgerton musical creators: 'Executives are paying attention...the dream would be Broadway'. Posted 29 Jan 2021. Accessed 16 Aug 2022.
- [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Ei_Ce2nwQ0 3:01 / 14:42 There's a BRIDGERTON Musical?!]. Posted 21 Jan 2021. Accessed 1 Feb 2023.
- Instagram Post. Posted 22 June 2021. Accessed 16 Aug 2022.
- Alone Together (Bridgerton Musical) - Joshua Henry & Abigail Barlow & Emily Bear - Elsie Fest 2021. Posted 30 Aug 2021. Accessed 1 Feb 2023.
- Burn For You (Bridgerton the Musical) - Darren Criss & Abigail Barlow & Emily Bear - Elsie Fest 2021. Posted 30 Aug 2021. Accessed 1 Feb 2023.
- TikTok by @abigailbarlowww. Posted 10 Sept 2021. Accessed 16 Aug 2021.
- TikTok by @abigailbarlowww. Posted 13 Sept 2021. Accessed 16 Aug 2021.
- Ocean Away - Abigail Barlow, Emily Bear & Darren Criss | The Kennedy Center at 50. Posted 1 Oct 2021. Accessed 16 Aug 2022.
- Instagram Post. Posted 10 Nov 2021. Accessed 16 Aug 2022.
- An Oral History of ‘Ratatouille: The Musical’. Posted 18 Nov 2020. Accessed 1 Feb 2023.
- 64th Annual GRAMMY Awards. Accessed 16 Aug 2022.
- Barlow & Bear Perform 'Alone Together' From GRAMMY-Winning 'Bridgerton Musical' Album. Posted 18 May 2022. Accessed 16 Aug 2022.
- Instagram Post. Posted 15 June 2022. Accessed 16 Aug 2022.
- Instagram Post. Posted 12 July 2022. Accessed 16 Aug 2022.
- Netflix Sues ‘Bridgerton The Musical’ Creators For Infringement, Seeks Halt to Live Stagings. Posted 29 Jul 2022. Accessed 16 Aug 2022.
- The Queen's Ball: A Bridgerton Experience. Accessed 16 Aug 2022.
- Let’s Talk Barlow & Bear v Netflix. Posted 30 July 2022. Accessed 16 Aug 2022.
- Tis the Season - Barlow and bear. Posted 9 Sept 2021. Accessed 1 Feb 2023.
- Bitch, I ain't Cho Chang! Posted 28 Jul 2011. Accessed 1 Feb 2023.
- What the ‘Unofficial Bridgerton Musical’ Lawsuit Means for Fan-Created Content. Posted 10 Aug 2022. Accessed 16 Aug 2022.
- Why the Barlow and Bear Lawsuit is Relevant to FanFiction Writers. Posted 30 Jul 2022. Accessed 1 Feb 2022.
- Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear Cancel London Unofficial Bridgerton Musical Concert Following Legal Action From Netflix. Posted 10 Aug 2022. Accessed 16 Aug 2022.
- Netflix Settles Copyright Lawsuit Over ‘Unofficial Bridgerton Musical’ . Posted 23 Sept 2022. Accessed 1 Feb 2023.
- Ginny & Georgia: Season 2 | Scene - Maxine's Performance. Posted 7 Jan 2023. Accessed 1 Feb 2023.
- Tweet. Posted 17 Jan 2023. Accessed 1 Feb 2023.
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- Tumblr Post. Posted 11 Sept 2021. Accessed 16 Aug 2022.
- Tweet. Posted 18 Oct 2022. Accessed 1 Feb 2023.
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- Tumblr Post. Posted 24 Sept 2021. Accessed 16 Aug 2022.
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- Tumblr Post. Posted 2 Aug 2022. Accessed 1 Feb 2023.