Feature image Abigail Barlow & Emily Bear, Barlow & Bear, by Igor Kasyanyuk
One year ago Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear were two friends so obsessed with 19th-Century British sex scandals and town gossip that they took to the streets of TikTok to create a Bridgerton-inspired musical. Now, in January 2022, they are Grammy nominated for Best Musical Theater Album and made Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list. The most dazzling part about all of this is clear from her fabulous pink and purple hair: Abigail Barlow is hella bisexual.
Before last January, singer-songwriter Abigail Barlow used TikTok as a platform to promote her spunky pop singles and gain traction in the music industry. Her posts sparkled with personality and fan engagement, but didn’t quite hit the numbers needed to make her a popstar, writer, or TikTok queen. Until she released a video quite unexpectedly posing the question,”What if Bridgerton was a musical?” Still in the initial season of Bridgerton hype, fans were suddenly seeing – and vehemently sharing – the video in hopes Barlow might write a song or two.
Satisfying the fan demand, she shared “Daphne’s Song” (now known as “Ocean’s Away”), a piece Daphne sings about Simon at a ball (in a hypothetical stage production of course). Following this, she shared a second post featuring her viral piece, “Burn For You,” a duet Simon and Daphne sing just after they marry. Almost overnight, this song was shared by hundreds of thousands of Bridgerton and Barlow fans. Barlow quickly announced that she had recruited her friend and writing partner, Emily Bear, to help her co-create a full-length Bridgerton musical. Together, they amped up the orchestration and captioned the lyrics so the video could easily be used as a duet on TikTok.
Quite quickly, thousands of musical theater kids and Bridgerton fans were singing as if they, too, were forced to be betrothed to their secret crush that they also kinda hate. My personal algorithm showed me cover after cover of “Burn For You” until I found myself a hardcore devoted fan. Everything from the storytelling in the lyrics to the building of tension in the chords made me totally swoon. I found myself singing “Eloise’s Song” (who is most definitely gay, btw) in the shower and “Fool For You” stuck in my head when I woke up. I became that friend who makes you watch a 5-minute video you don’t care about, only this time it’s 10 minutes and it’s a TikTok livestream musical writing session.
Before the duo could even finish the full project, they were picked up by NPR, ET, Cosmopolitan, NBC and The Guardian, to name a few. Now known as Barlow & Bear, the co-writers are Grammy nominated for Best Musical Theater Album. They were recently listed in Forbes’ 2022 30 Under 30 in the Social Media category. Even though this is surely their biggest claim to fame, Barlow and Bear are each successful musicians in their own right as well. Before — and even during — the making of The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical, Barlow was writing dancey pop music about love and heartbreak. Her single, ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ hit No. 44 on the Billboard Digital Song Sales chart. Known for her breathtaking compositions and reputation as a child piano prodigy at the mere age of 5, Bear has written scores for Disney, DreamWorks, Universal and WarnerBros. and has performed her pieces in Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and the Hollywood Bowl.
THANK YOU. #bridgertonmusical
If that isn’t enough wholesome and inspiring news for you, in the middle of all of this press, Barlow dropped a new song on TikTok “about being a bi queen!”
I couldn’t help but feel my heart pulse as I watched Barlow go from bisexual TikTok-famous to taking pictures with Andrew Lloyd Webber. While musical theater has historically been a safer place for queer people to thrive, it still continues to lack diversity and representation amongst writers, composers, and producers. Watching this very-out young writer break the system and make her own way into the theater world is one more queer person in the room making things happen for other young up-and-coming queer writers. Hell, if I would’ve seen her out, proud, and writing musicals when I was 13, I would’ve felt like I could turn my secret 1-woman play about evil fairies and enchanted forests into a hit broadway sensation.
Falling in love with The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical from its conception was kinda like a 2021 version of learning StarKid’s A Very Potter Musical. Everytime I wanted to listen to it, I had to bring up a shitty YouTube recording and watch it a few times before I left the house because I couldn’t download it but I still wanted to belt the correct lyrics on my drive to school. Sure, I love The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical because it’s writing is phenomenal, but more importantly, it makes me feel hopeful for a future of more accessible opportunities for all young queer musical theater actors, writers, composers and producers.
Finally, please enjoy this final TikTok of Barlow seeing her face in Times Square for the first time while wearing a sparkly rainbow dress.