"What is particularly refreshing is the warm community atmosphere surrounding the Bridgerton Musical"twitter/evers_alexa

There is nothing like the enthralling magic of live musical theatre: the excitement of seeing a piece for the first time, or watching an old favourite re-interpreted in an evening of escapism, catharsis and mesmerising performance. It’s an immersive experience that can’t be replicated, but while we all wait with bated breath to sit in those velvet-lined seats again, pop-singer Abigail Barlow and piano prodigy Emily Bear have been keeping us company with their budding project, Bridgerton the Musical, on the unlikeliest of stages: TikTok.

Following the example of Ratatouille the Musical (affectionately known as the Ratatousical) which dominated the platform over the summer, the pair took to TikTok to share the writing process of their musical based on the hit TV show. After a mere two months, they have compiled a catalogue of 20 songs, many of which have been released to the public as ‘rough demos’, with every role voiced by Barlow. A peculiarity of the duo is that their writing sessions are livestreamed via Instagram, circumventing the element-of-surprise strategy and laying it all bare to their fans, gauging the popularity of each song-writing decision by the amount of thumbs-up and multi-coloured hearts that appear on the side of the screen, before the musical has even hit the stage. Needless to say, their approach has certainly proved fruitful: the pair have now amassed over 150 million views under the hashtag #BridgertonMusical on TikTok alone.

“...while it may not emulate the “real deal”, it compensates with its global reach and the tight community bonds it knits”

As well as the overnight fame the duo have obtained, another unexpected by-product of their song-writing has been the oceans of creativity their endeavours have aroused; people from all over the globe have started to share their own choreography, visual art and alternative melodies, each contributing a new layer of nuance to the stunningly diverse panoply of artistry all stemming from one source idea. As spectators, it is a unique privilege to have a front-row seat, albeit through a screen, for the genesis of what has the makings of a monumental project, soon to be adored by many. What is particularly refreshing is the warm community atmosphere surrounding Bridgerton the Musical that emanates enthusiasm and understanding; each creation is clearly motivated by a simple love for one’s craft rather than a shallow desire for fame or recognition. Curiously, the project seems to have united people even more at a distance than it would in normal times, as strangers gather over Zoom for ‘watch parties’ of the live writing sessions, creating international friendships with like-minded people. This is perhaps the most moving symptom of the phenomenon of a TikTok musical: while it may not emulate the “real deal”, it compensates with its global reach and the tight community bonds it knits, humanising its otherwise faceless audience.

"Bridgerton the Musical" co-creators, Emily Bear and Abigail Barlow. twitter/variety

Could such social media stardom result in a more accessible route to ‘making it big’? As Cambridge thesps well know, it is often who you know rather than how proficient you are that gets you in the game, and that harsh reality also transposes itself to the professional world. In a strangely democratic turn of events, via social media, it is the public that decides who will succeed rather than the oftentimes nepotistic powers that be. It certainly seems more inclusive, since achieving acclaim in this context does not rely on how many years of (expensive) training you may or may not have listed on your résumé, but depends entirely objectively on the talent on screen.

“...Barlow and Bear, both innately and professionally, epitomise girl power and empowerment”

All of this begs the question: is this the future of musical creation, or is it merely a product of lockdown boredom? I would be the last person to advocate for the advantages of social media, and TikTok has proven to be one of the most toxic platforms of all, with its reputation for addiction and promotion of diet culture and eating disorders. However, in a time when we all need a bit of cheering up and some theatrical magic to offset the mundanity of current daily life, I can see nothing but benefits from sharing one’s creative process online. While many might argue that making theatre accessible online could cripple the industry, Barlow and Bear’s publicity strategy could actually have the reverse effect, and drive more people to the stage, newly intrigued by this modern, colourful approach to what some young people have deemed a dying art in the face of screen giants like Netflix.


READ MORE

Mountain View

2aaecf StarKid’s Twisted is the Disney remake we actually needed

Before making this entire article a love-letter to Bridgerton the Musical and its creators, I’ll leave you with this. A recent study found that female songwriters made up less than 15% of the industry from 2012 to 2019. Statistics such as these have practically lost their shock-factor by this point, as we continue to see almost every sector dominated by males. Barlow and Bear, both innately and professionally, epitomise girl power and empowerment, something I undoubtedly would have benefited from witnessing growing up. While their platform is unconventional, it is far-reaching and they have potential to do some good with their extraordinarily rich, beautiful and varied music. And so, I encourage you to go and support these exceedingly gifted young women on their journey to the top, where they may continue to create, share and inspire on TikTok and – hopefully soon – on the stage.