In the world of “Bridgerton,” reputation is everything. The fictional Regency-era high society, known as the ton, decide who is the “Crown Jewel” of the season. But it’s the show itself that’s proven to be the height of success. Since its Christmas Day premiere, the series based on Julia Quinn’s popular romance novels has broken Netflix records as the streaming service’s most popular show ever, with self-reported 82 million household viewings in its first month.
Whether it’s the sweeping romance, gorgeous costumes, or era escapism, Shonda Rhimes’s first season of “Bridgerton” has captivated fans on a wholly unique level. And in a landscape defined by the pandemic, fans are demonstrating their love for the show the best way they can: across social media. From Twitter to TikTok, the passion projects from the “Bridgerton” fandom are their own online phenomenon.
Combing through the “Bridgerton” hashtag (#Bridgerton) on any social media platform reveals fanworks of all kinds — flirty memes of star Regé-Jean Page (“I watch Bridgerton for the plot”), music video-like “fanvids” set to modern pop, even full accounts created for random (but noteworthy) objects from the Bridgerton universe. Take @BridgertonsTree, a Twitter parody account inspired by a specific tree from a scene that features a certain character engaging in some… ahem, illicit outdoor activity in the first episode. (Author Jodi Picoult is a frequent engager.)
Latinx fans of the series have been creating new renditions of the “Bridgerton” world on TikTok and Instagram featuring spoofed ongoings of the ton. There are also fans hand-making period-accurate costumes inspired by the show, enthusiastically modeling their creations in Facebook groups and on Instagram. (A criticism of the series has been the liberties taken with era-meshing wardrobes.) But one of the fandom’s most viral contributions came courtesy of two musicians who became addicted to the show like so many others did.
When Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Abigail Barlow (@abigailbarlowww) watched the series, she was inspired on a lyrical level to create what would become known on TikTok as Bridgerton the Musical.
“After binging the TV series with the rest of the world and marveling [at] the masterful storytelling, I knew it was a tale meant for the stage,” Barlow told the Globe. “After I wrote it, I posted the first verse and chorus on TikTok, as I have done with all my original music for the past 6 years, and was absolutely astonished at the response. Since then, it’s been a crazy whirlwind.”
Composer Emily Bear (@emilythebear), a Los Angeles-based Berklee student who frequently collaborates with Barlow (they’re professionally known as Barlow and Bear), said she recognized the potential of “Bridgerton” as a musical project as soon as Barlow reached out via text. “We had been working on writing another musical together but ‘Bridgerton’ has literally every element you would want for a stage show. I got super inspired to finish writing the rest with Abigail and we started writing the musical immediately.”
One song soon led to more, including “Burn For You” and “Ocean Away,” duets featuring the season’s main love interests, Daphne Bridgerton and Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings, and the extremely catchy “If I Were a Man,” a solo from the perspective of Daphne’s younger sister Eloise, who rejects her family’s desire for her to marry within high society. Barlow and Bear’s clips of original character-inspired songs quickly entered viral territory, but they didn’t anticipate how wide-ranging the response would be — or who would be noticing their creative efforts.
The original songs have been performed by countless other aspiring and professional singers via TikTok stitches. And several “Bridgerton” cast members, including Nicola Coughlan, Jonathan Bailey, and Phoebe Dynevor, as well as series author Quinn, have acknowledged the duo’s work since Barlow’s first post in early January.
That post, which features an early version of Daphne’s verse in “Ocean Away,” has been viewed more than 1.8 million times, with the following TikTok posts of original songs racking up several million views each. #BridgertonMusical has also inspired original choreography, sets, playbills, and fellow fan-created music, with the use of the hashtag bringing in a collective 138 million views across the platform.
“Seeing how far our music has spread all over the world, and watching people who have been our idols singing and playing music that we wrote, is totally amazing,” Bear said. “We’ve been approached by some incredible opportunities and options for Bridgerton the Musical. We love this project so much and can’t wait to get the music out to the world.” Recently, the pair have released rough demos of several songs from the musical on their official website, with more to come.
Ultimately, the future looks bright for “Bridgerton” — the show was renewed for a second season — but also for some of the fans who have been inspired to bring romance to social media, the stage, and maybe beyond.