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Bridgerton: The story behind the musical tribute that was too popular for Netflix's lawyers to enjoy

The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical was a little too unofficial for Netflix, as it turned out

Image credit: Shondaland/Netflix

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Sure, you think you’re a Bridgerton superfan, but did you get a chance to check out the Unofficial Bridgerton Musical before Netflix quietly stepped in? If your answer is, “What Bridgerton musical?” then clearly, you should read on…

While Bridgerton has existed since the year 2000 as a series of novels, it wasn’t until the 2020 Netflix adaptation that the regency romance came to most people’s attention; two of those people were composers and performers Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear, who were so inspired by the show that they started posting song ideas on social media for an imaginary musical — only for the songs to become increasingly popular (and, for that matter, more elaborate and complete, as well). By September 2021, when the two released an album titled The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical, their videos had been viewed more than 200 million times on TikTok, with more than 48 million likes — including some from the cast of the show itself.

Unfortunately, that’s when the trouble started. As Bear and Barlow started to find more success with the project — including television performances, multiple live performances with increasingly higher profiles (appearing at the Kennedy Center’s 50th Anniversary Concert in 2021, then returning to the Kennedy Center the following year to perform the entire album with the National Symphony Orchestra, for example), and somewhat stunningly, winning the 2022 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album — again, this was not an actual musical, but a concept album — Netflix’s attitude towards the project soured; in July 2022, the company sued Barlow and Bear in the Washington, DC U.S. District Court, alleging copyright infringement, and attempting to prevent further public performance of the material.

In a statement released at the time of the suit being filed, series creator Shonda Rhimes said, “There is so much joy in seeing audiences fall in love with Bridgerton, but what started as a fun celebration by Barlow & Bear on social media has turned into the blatant taking of intellectual property.” Also making a statement was Julia Quinn, the author behind the original Bridgeton novels, who said, “I was flattered and delighted when they began. There is a difference, however, between composing on TikTok and recording and performing for commercial gain.”

The lawsuit didn’t actually make it to court — it was settled in September 2022, two months after being filed; terms of the settlement weren’t disclosed, but it’s worth noting that the album is still available to stream on Spotify for those who want it. Sure, Bear and Barlow aren’t performing it live anymore, but that might be because they’ve already moved on — the two have composed the songs for Disney’s Moana 2, out later this year.

So, what will happen to the Unofficial Bridgerton Musical now? Well, depending on the relationship between Netflix and Barlow and Bear is post-lawsuit, there’s always the most obvious answer: what if everyone involved comes to a deal where that “Unofficial” can get lifted off the title…?

Whether its the bane of your existence or the object of all your desires (or both), Bridgerton is back. Read all our spoiler-y thoughts on Bridgerton season 3 here, and then delight at a guide to how to watch all of Bridgerton (and the spinoff), an our exclusive interview with the show's costume designer John Glaser, as well as some recommended reads for all Bridgerton fans.