UK’s Bridgerton musical axed after legal pressure from Netflix

Emily Bear and Abigail Barlow - Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Emily Bear and Abigail Barlow – Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

No doubt Lady Whistledown could summon a venomous barb or two when told that a musical version of the Bridgerton drama at the Royal Albert Hall has been scrapped.

The makers of The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical have been forced to cancel its UK premiere after being sued by Netflix, the drama’s original producers.

Netflix has accused TikTok stars Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear of “blatant infringement” of copyright for their musical version of the color-blind Regency drama set in an imagined 18th-century London.

Ms Barlow, 33, and Ms Bear, 20, were already sued by Netflix over their sell-out US production of the show at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC.

It will raise questions about why the Royal Albert Hall went ahead with its own version of the musical, publicized the production – which was due to be staged on September 20 – and sold tickets that now have to be refunded.

A statement posted online by the venue on Thursday said: “Unfortunately, Barlow and Bear have canceled the performance of The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical, Live in Concert at the Royal Albert Hall”.

Netflix filed its claim against Ms Barlow and Ms Bear three days after a sold-out performance at the Kennedy Center on July 26, where tickets sold for up to $149.

The streaming giant said that after the first series of Bridgerton in 2020 – based on the novels by Julia Quinn – the pair began posting video clips on TikTok, including songs based on the characters, scenes, dialogue and plot twists.

One of the claims is that the musical’s opening track, ‘Tis the Season, uses dialogue similar to that spoken by Lady Whistledown, the town gossip writer, in the drama series.

Netflix also claimed that the track “If I Were a Man” reflects character Eloise Bridgerton’s desire to escape the cage of marriage.

The streaming company claimed that it repeatedly warned the two performers to stop, but that they continued to make their Grammy-winning album The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical and musical of the same name.

It said: “Netflix supports fan-generated content, but Barlow and Bear have taken this many steps further, attempting to create multiple revenue streams for themselves without formal permission to use the Bridgerton IP.”

The statement added: “The creators, cast, writers and crew have poured their hearts and souls into Bridgerton, and we are taking action to protect their rights.”

Quinn herself said she was “flattered and happy” when Barlow and Bear began composing Bridgerton songs and sharing with other fans on TikTok.

She added: “However, there is a difference between composing on TikTok and recording and performing for commercial gain. I hope that Barlow and Bear, who share my position as independent creative professionals, understand the need to protect the intellectual property of other professionals , including the characters and stories I created in the Bridgerton novels over twenty years ago.”

“A Whole New Broadway Audience”

According to Netflix, Barlow and Bear’s musical attracted Bridgerton fans who would otherwise have attended a Bridgerton experience in Washington hosted by the streaming company.

Netflix is ​​seeking unspecified damages for the alleged copyright infringement. A verdict in the US case has not yet been delivered.

Ms Barlow and Ms Bear – who wrote at least 13 songs for the show – have been contacted for comment.

They previously said that TikTok musicals were “a great example” of how to bring “a whole new audience to Broadway, that we could never have reached before.”

LA-based Ms Barlow said: “I think TikTok is a really great medium for new music, especially because the people who use TikTok a lot are teenagers and young people who love pop culture – and when they find something they love, they stick with it. “

In an interview with The Stage last year, Ms Bear added: “Musical theater is a living, breathing thing that should be changing all the time.”

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