Meet Broadway Barbara, the Faux Broadway Diva Who Has 400,000 Followers on Social Media | Playbill

Special Features Meet Broadway Barbara, the Faux Broadway Diva Who Has 400,000 Followers on Social Media

How actor Leah Sprecher created a viral TikTok and Instagram persona.

Barbara Dixon Thann Clark

Broadway Barbara, known to her followers as a beloved Broadway legend of the Golden Age, has been making a name for herself on TikTok and Instagram. She shares theatrical stories from her long, illustrious, and not at all satirical career. Playbill spoke with the woman behind the diva, Leah Sprecher, for some insight into how she brought the comedy sensation to life.

Currently, Sprecher is bringing Barbara to the SoHo Playhouse for a one-woman show Broadway Barbara LIVE! Off-Broadway. She began performances last weekend, with three more shows set for April 15-17.

Sprecher is a self-proclaimed lover of musical theatre, which she studied at the University of California, Los Angeles. Since Sprecher was young, she has gravitated toward character roles: think The Music Man’s Pick-a-Little Talk-a-Little ladies in grade school, Joanne in Company in college. Broadway Barbara started as a five minute comedy sketch during Sprecher’s theatre training.

“The sketch initially was just this older woman trying to prove that she can still play the ingenue,” Sprecher says. Sprecher is in her 30s, while Barbara is in her 50s. “She was auditioning for 42nd Street to play Peggy Sawyer, aggressively tap dancing and trying to prove that she still has what it takes.”

From there, Barbara became a recurring persona for Sprecher—she initially put on a half-hour satire cabaret as the character in 2018. But when the pandemic hit, Sprecher, who had not had much social media presence before, began to bring Barbara to the digital sphere. Since her first video, a camp-ified Fosse dance tutorial, Barbara’s TikTok and Instagram pages have grown to cover everything from her post-show routine to cocktail recipes.

“It's all inspired by my own experience being in the business,” Sprecher says. “Knowing these insider things, like what it feels like to be in an ensemble, a lot of that stuff comes from a love of the art form and personal experience.”

Barbara has become a social media hit, with close to 300,000 followers on TikTok and over 100,000 on Instagram. Her pages, @broadwaybarbaraofficial on both platforms, are in full character: “I’m a classic triple threat: a singer, a dancer, and the trainer of 4 illegal bobcats,” Barbara’s bio reads. While her audience is largely made up of theatre fans, Sprecher says Barbara is for everyone.

“Even for people who don't know references and don't really know theater, it's not alienating,” Sprecher says. “There's something universal about the character, and you really root for her and you relate to her.”

Sprecher/Barbara’s live show is a full song and dance spectacle– “I think [audiences] just expect more stand up, like it's just me standing on stage doing the same bits that are on the social media, and it's not,” Sprecher says. It’s a full cabaret about Barbara’s faux life, complete with backup dancers in their 50s, some of whom have been in the theatre business for years.

After her run at the SoHo Playhouse, Barbara will be seen in a one-night engagement in Chicago, and then in Australia for the Adelaide Cabaret festival in June. In the meantime, fans can catch up with her social media pages from any location, and for those in the city, her live show promises a “silly, joyful night” of song and dance– “anywhere from Eminem to Sondheim and everything in between.” 

To get a taste of Broadway Barbara's humor, see this video Barbara did exclusively for Playbill.

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