Sunday, June 11, 2023



Broadway Barbara. 

Created by Leah Sprecher. Performed by Barbara Dixon

The Banquet Room. Adelaide Cabaret Festival. Adelaide Festival Centre

June 10 2023.

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins


 The women who stood to give Barbara Dixon a standing ovation at the end of her show Broadway Barbara may have recognized themselves in Dixon’s portrayal of a woman asserting herself against the whim of an industry that is often an obstacle course of pitfalls on the climb to the top. Comedy can mask a hundred fears and doubts and singer/comedienne Dixon is comedy’s mistress. She’s  funny, quirky and bursting with energy as she belts out a number or pounds through the moves. Everything’s gonna come up roses and daffodils for Broadway Barbara when she becomes Broadway’s superstar. Who in the world does she think she is? Broadway Barbara is under a delusion. Just because she got to stand in for a shingle stricken Shirley in the Laverne and Shirley musical or got to stand alongside Frank Sinatra Jr. is not going to make her a star. But she struggles on with Let Me Entertain You and Dixon’s alter ego does just that. With larger than life panache and feisty determination Broadway Barbara battles on against rejection after rejection, unexpected pregnancy. twin sons and Dick Dixon who assured her he was only firing blanks.  After a double act of tap with her husband’s urn she earnestly taps upon the ashes. There’s nothing sacred about her all in good fun irreverence and her audience loved her for it.

 It’s all done with good humour and bitter sweet reminiscence of what might have been but never was. But Dixon is no second rate Broadway Barbara, plugging away at Off Off Off Broadway shows. She’s got her chat down pat and grooves with her moves. The audience is in stitches as Broadway Barbara battles to clamber up after a most impressive demonstration of the splits. But there’s nothing frail about this would be Broadway Diva. For an hour of comedy, song and movement Broadway Barbara proves that she is a force of entertainment to be reckoned with. With a voice that echoes with the mood of a Broadway show she can belt out a number with the best of them. I would have preferred less chatter and repartee and more nostalgia in her singing. Maybe that is why I enjoyed her tribute to Sondheim with her closing rendition of Ladies Who Lunch from Company. It seemed a fitting somewhat cynical conclusion to a show that recalled a more Golden Age of good old fashioned entertainment.

A special closing comment on the musicians. I have often commented on the excellence of the music at the Cabaret Festival. Too often I don’t catch the names but I am in awe of Adelaide’s musicians who can with very limited rehearsal pick up the songs and play with consummate professionalism. This was the case in Broadway Barbara and once again gave fabulous support to an international artist. Old and true songs like Jesus Christ Superstar, Everything’s coming up roses, Let Me Entertain You, Tea For Two and Ladies Who Lunch hit the heights with the backing of the band.

Photos by Claudio Raschella