Broadway Barbara (Dixon) may one of greatest stars you’ve never seen or heard. In her mind, she’s played all the best roles and has taught dance to many of the finest professionals. Barbara is in fact, a viral sensation on Instagram. Today at the Soho Playhouse, she begins an exclusive and limited engagement of her live show—complete with back-up dancers, backstage gossip, and all the razzle dazzle one would expect from stage royalty.
The woman under the wig? Leah Sprecher, a significantly younger performer with a musical theater degree and experience in sketch comedy. Manhattan Digest spoke with both divas.
MD: Do you consider yourself a living legend?
BB: Of course I am, my darling. I mean, what an honor it is for you to be speaking to me.
MD: Who inspires Barbara Dixon?
BB: Lucille Ball. Elaine Stritch is a big one, although I’m the one who should have been cast as Joann in Company. I’m much too young, but even still. I have the powerhouse vocals of Elaine. I can hit some pretty high notes up there. I’ve got a 3 octave range and it just keeps growing as I age.
MD: That’s miraculous. Most people lose range as they age.
BB: Well, I get into a lot of screaming matches with my landlord and that increases my range. The last time I was in New York I got kicked out of the building because my landlord changed his rules about having bobcats in the building. What can you do? I’ve been kicked out of every apartment I’ve ever lived.
MD: What’s the best advice you impart on young people starting in the biz?
BB: You have to have really sharp elbows and a head like a cinder block. Don’t be afraid to get physical-that’s my best advice. I am a biter and even if security does remove me from the premises, at least I’m remembered.
MD: What physical altercation have you gotten into recently?
BB: I have a lot of restraining orders against me and per my lawyers’ request, I’m really not allowed to say. But I’m surprised that I’m being welcomed back to New York City. I think a lot of people must have forgotten about the restraining order …Patti LuPone being one of them. I’ve bitten her on more than one occasion.
MD: What does she taste like?
BB: Very sour…very sour. She tastes disgusting.
MD: I’m glad they didn’t put you on the “no fly” list!
BB: I know! Thank the Lord I can come, although I do get stopped often. I travel with my late husband, Dick Dixon, in a urn. He will get stopped and swabbed at TSA.
MD: Do you have rivals in the biz?
BB: Oh! Of course. We talked about Patti but also Chita Rivera who once called me “unpredictable and reckless.” This was after I snorted coke from her naval backstage of the Shubert theater. You think you know a gal.
MD: I know you’re a fan of Bob Fosse. Did you ever work with him?
BB: No. I never worked with him, but I did improve on his moves. I’m hoping to do a collaboration with the cast of Bob Fosse’s Dancin’ when I’m in town and I guarantee you…once I teach them my new and improved moves, that show is gonna run as long as The Phantom of the Opera.
MD: How has the biz changed from the time you started?
BB: well, they are turning everything into a musical these days and there are all these juke pop musicals like Karate Kid: The Musical. I was up for the role of Mr. Miyagi but it went to Nathan Lane.
MD: Do you have a Tony?
BB: I have an EGOT. I’ve attended the Emmys, I have a great Grammy named “Ruth” and My hair and make-up guys are Oscar and Tony–and that all counts.
MD: When you’re here in New York, will you have a private driver or will you take the subway?
BB: I like to be with the normal people, so I’ll take the subway. Of course, it has nothing to do with the fact that I can’t afford a driver. I just want to be with my people.
Barbra then transformed into her creator, Leah Sprecher.
MD: Where are you from originally?
LS: I’m from Southern California and went to UCLA for theater?
MD: What was the origin of Broadway Barbara?
LS: I was always cast in older roles and as I was studying theater, I took classes at the Groundlings in Los Angeles. Barbara was initially a 5-minute sketch. She was an older actress trying to convincingly play the lead (Peggy Sawyer) in 42nd Street. It got me into the Sunday company. I thought it might have more mileage if I expanded the sketch into a full show. I did my first show in 2018. It felt so good to combine sketch and musical theater and performing. The videos started during the pandemic. I produce and write them all with my husband, who is a comedy writer.
MD: Have there been any mishaps or have you ever broken character during a show?
LS: No. I fully stay in character and I think the audience appreciates that. There are people who come to the show who don’t realize that I’m actually a younger person. It’s kind of fun that people are willing to believe that I’m really this older character.
Broadway Barbara LIVE! Off-Broadway plays April 9-17, 2023. Tickets are priced from $49 to $65. To purchase tickets and for more information, please visit www.sohoplayhouse.com.
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