In lieu of new Bridgerton episodes, have I got some real-life tea to hold you over: On Friday, July 29, after many a warning, Netflix finally filed a copyright and infringement lawsuit against The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical, a musical stage production inspired by the book series-turned-TV show. Featuring songs that were originally composed on and for TikTok, the 15-song album, co-created by Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear, has been nothing short of a viral sensation, with the #bridgertonmusical hashtag on TikTok racking up over 317.8M views. Since their start in December of 2020, Barlow and Bear’s fame only seems to be growing: The album won a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album, and their live concert sold out at one of the most historic theater venues in the on July 26 (more on that later). Just three days later, Netflix claimed in a lawsuit that the pair “have taken valuable intellectual property from the Netflix original series Bridgerton to build an international brand for themselves.”
It’s clear why the musical went viral: The Regency-era period drama damn near saved us from our own horniness during the early days of the pandemic with its swoon-worthy British accents and steamy (mostly public) sex. And with new seasons coming out at a glacial pace, why not live out the fantasy a little longer? Fans of the show latched onto Barlow and Bear’s content like candy, composing their own renditions of songs and choreographing original dance numbers in response.
“We sort of created this community somehow and found this corner of social media that is so positive and bright,” Bear shared in the six-minute docu-story recounting the duo’s journey to fame. Barlow and Bear have even garnered accolades from some of the original Bridgerton cast, with Jonathan Bailey (aka hot older brother and Season 2 leading man Anthony Bridgerton) calling the project “amazing” and noting that the vocals on it are *chef’s kiss.*
Despite all the Whistledown-worthy praise, the drama seems to have come to a head when TUBM sold out a show at Washington D.C.’s prestigious Kennedy Center on (gasp!) the same night that Netflix hosted a “Bridgerton Experience” event. For those of you not in the royal know, “A Bridgerton Experience: The Queen’s Ball” is a chance for us plebs to live our best royal lives for one night and one night only, donning our most obnoxious ballgowns and tallest wigs to indulge in whatever ballroom shenanigans we might find ourselves in.
According to the lawsuit, the musical “attracted Bridgerton fans who would have otherwise attended the Bridgerton Experience and created confusion as to whether Netflix had approved of Barlow & Bear’s unauthorized derivative works.” Honestly, it just sounds like Netflix is salty about not getting an invite to the cooler party in town; after all, only one of these events featured the National Symphony Orchestra (just saying).
And as much as Netflix would like to brush off TUBM as mere fanfic-gone-wild, Barlow and Bear’s spin-off album (is it still a spin-off if there’s only one?) does make some points: Songs like “Penelope Featherington” and “If I Were a Man” lean into the inner lives of Penelope and Eloise Bridgerton, respectively, bringing Penelope’s undying love for Colin Bridgerton and Eloise’s impassioned feminist rants to life.
So, what we’re really dying to know: What would Lady Whistledown have to say about all of this? With Season 3 of the OG show still many months away, all we can do is speculate.