Remember last winter when everyone was watching “Bridgerton”? While some people just enjoyed the show, others used the hit Netflix series for inspiration. In the latter category are Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear, who together form Barlow & Bear.
In early January, Barlow posted a video on his TikTok account, not expecting it to reach thousands of people. In it, she asks the audience, “Okay, but what if ‘Bridgerton’ was a musical? Then sings an opening line from a song she wrote, inspired by Daphne and Simon’s relationship. The next day she posted another video with a song called “Burn for You”.
This one touched even more people and garnered even more attention from “Bridgerton” fans, TikTok users and music theater enthusiasts. Slowly but surely, other TikTok users, including a student at the Music, Drama and Dance School, began posting “duets” with Barlow, singing Simon’s parts while Barlow sang Daphne’s.
Barlow had no idea his little videos would turn into a full concept album a few months later.
Released on September 10, 2021, Barlow & Bear’s album “Unofficial Bridgerton Musical” simultaneously reached number one on iTunes Pop Charts and thrilled future fans around the world. The soundtrack is magnificent in its simplicity and individuality. The songs are co-written by the two young women, sung almost entirely by Barlow and composed by Bear. Although the album is a short 38 minutes long, the musical qualities are present in the great instrumental moments and in the Broadway-style vocals.
Barlow sings almost every part – easily alternating his vocals between a soft, high-pitched British voice for Daphne, a rich, deep tone for Simon’s lines, a fun and fiery sound for Eloise and an opera queen, among others. The only song Bear sings, “Penelope Featherington,” matches her calm, shy tone well.
The songs on the album have a very varied style, but they all retain the common thread of “Bridgerton”. We have a typical Broadway opener in “Tis the Season,” who introduces us to the cast of characters in an excitable way. Eloise’s song “If I Were a Man” and Siena’s powerful independentist bop “Fool for You” will now be iconic songs in feminist musical theater. The romantic ballad “Alone Together” features beautiful lyrics like “we could escape / in the paint / colored in green and gilded in gold”.
My favorite, “Every Inch”, with its piano parts reminiscent of the rain, best illustrates the talents of Barlow & Bear. Barlow, unfazed by singing both the parts of Simon and Daphne at the same time, reaches beautiful notes and sings with such emotion that, closing your eyes, you can see these songs taking place on stage. Bear’s compositions are dynamic and meaningful, especially when, like Broadway, musical motif notes from some songs are found in the instrumentation of others.
Musical theater is an underrated category of music, which is a real shame. Some of the world’s most talented artists can be found on Broadway stages. Barlow & Bear may not be on stage for their performances (yet), but they are well on their way to achieving the quality of some of Broadway’s most renowned stars.
However, what is more impressive than their musical talent is their dedication to their craft and their fans. They showcased their entire writing and songwriting process on Instagram and TikTok live feeds, sometimes in front of the camera for hours on end so their fans could watch them perform magic right before their eyes.
Throughout this process, despite their growing notoriety, Barlow & Bear stayed true to themselves, working very clearly on this project as they adored “Bridgerton” and had fun writing music. Even when well-known stars arrived on Instagram live streams, like Pasek and Paul’s Justin Paul (from “Dear Evan Hansen,” “La La Land” and University of Michigan fame), and got them shocked with praise (“Tell me you’ve been writing this for years, except it’s not possible”), they stayed balanced… after messing around a bit.
Performances alongside musical theater favorites like fellow college alumnus Darren Criss did the same: got them turned on, but never changed their love for their craft. Even their recent performance at the Kennedy Center only added to their experience, to their dedication to their work.
It’s inspiring to see such success, where people just rise up by doing what they love. And to see that they have made waves in the musical theater community is even more significant. They used their platform to bring the genre to more people.
I’ll be honest: I didn’t watch “Bridgerton”. But after following the creation of this album and listening to it over and over since its release, maybe I should just give the show a chance.
Daily Film Beat editor Sabriya Imami can be reached at [email protected].