Edited by: Vlada Taits
There’s a magical allure to musical theater.
Perhaps it’s the thrum of anticipation as the crowd files into their seats: the heat of the patron beside you, the electric energy coursing through the air. Perhaps it’s the sound of the orchestra, performed in the pit before the stage. It may be the live performers, their raw energy, excitement alight as they transform into a character before your very eyes.
Whatever it may be, it’s a remarkable feeling — one that’s only been captured by a select few songwriters, and recognized by just a handful.
Yet similar to most corners of the creative world, the exclusive “Broadway Club” demonstrates a strong lack of double-X chromosomes.
Enter: Barlow and Bear, the songwriting duo taking social media by storm.
In the first week of January, 22-year-old Abigail Barlow posted a short video on TikTok. She’d been inspired by the hit Netflix series Bridgerton, and decided to have a bit of fun with its dialogue, its themes. Ever the pop-music scribe, she drafted out a set of lyrics, pitching her voice to a faux-British lilt as she sang along to the tune she’d created.
“If this is what you call a honeymoon // Pacing, ’round our separate rooms…”
Little did she know that this song — entitled “Burn for You,” and encompassing the steamy scene (and memorable line) that caps off the show’s fifth episode — would launch her into superstardom.
Within a series of days, her TikTok and Instagram pages shot up in popularity. In mere weeks, she’d hit 100,000 followers on Instagram — and over 1 million on TikTok. That’s when she reached out to her friend and writing partner: 19-year-old pianist, composer and orchestrator, Emily Bear.
The Bridgerton fire might have been sparked by the Netflix series, but Barlow and Bear provided the kindling to keep it alight. Soon, fans were clamoring for more, enticed by the allure of the sparkling sounds, the whimsical lyrics.
And Barlow and Bear obliged… in the most brilliant of ways.
Most songwriters, when they work their musical magic, sit holed up in their rooms, scratching lyrics into bursting notebooks. They record their vocals in the studio, hire an orchestrator or a mixer to tweak behind the scenes, and only release their album once it’s polished, complete.
But Barlow and Bear aren’t most songwriters.
No, they’re 21st-century women, and they put their own spin on the status quo.
Instead of hiding their process from the world, they decided to highlight it. Sure, they might have still been writing songs within their rooms, penning lyrics into tiny notebooks — but they did so while streaming on Instagram Live, giving songwriting hopefuls (and casual fans alike) a glimpse at their creative process. When they couldn’t decide which line sounded smoother, they opened it up to informal votes and viewer debates.
This is unlike anything ever seen or done before. No longer was the act of songwriting a mystery, unlocked only by those with otherworldly talent or insider knowledge — no, Barlow and Bear provided the world with a series of songwriting, compositional and orchestral MasterClasses, offered on social platforms available to all.
And it wasn’t just the general public who were enthralled by their magic.
Within their first month of critical success, Dear Evan Hansen scribe Justin Paul broadcast his enjoyment of their livestreams. Jessica Vosk (two-time performer of Elphaba in Wicked) and Antonio Cipriano (the male lead of Grammy-winning musical Jagged Little Pill) duetted their songs on their own social media platforms.
News stations, magazines, and even theater executives then began to take notice. Though Barlow and Bear have remained largely cryptic, they’ve dropped hints about “big things coming regarding the Bridgerton musical” — and, after interviews with People and the BBC, and an exclusive appearance on The Kelly Clarkson Show, there’s no limit to how “big” those things might be.
In the midst of such uncertainty and isolation, in a year in which Broadway has gone dark, Bridgerton: The Musical has become a source of whimsy and light for fans around the globe. Through the transparent demonstration of their own creative process, Barlow and Bear have gifted the public a glimpse of what it takes to write a chart-topping musical — not to mention, the songs they’ve written have been truly unbelievable.
No one knows when we might see the end of this pandemic, the return to so-called “normalcy.” No one knows when Broadway might return to its former glory, the air alight with excitement and chatter, hearts thrumming as the curtain prepares to rise. It may be a while before we’re able to travel to New York again, flocking to the Gershwin and the Walter Kerr in throes, lined up before a stage door to grab selfies with the cast post-show.
Yet when Broadway does return, when the theater lights are turned back on — don’t be surprised if Bridgerton: The Musical has taken center stage.
Creative executives, take note: Barlow and Bear are about to take the world by storm.