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BWW Exclusive: Maite Uzal Wins 13th Street Rep's 'Lisa Lambert Award'

The 13th Street Rep has presented its "Lisa Lambert Award"--named after the Tony Award-winning co-creator of the musical comedy "The Drowsy Chaperone," and honoring an outstanding woman in theater--to actress Maite Uzal. Currently appearing in the musical "Mad About the Boy," Uzal is a resident member of both the New York-based Rebel Theater Company and of Chip Deffaa's repertory company at the 13th Street Theater.

From Toronto, where she is currently working, the multi-talented Lisa Lambert--who has written for and/or acted in assorted stage, television and film productions--offered her very best wishes: "Congratulations to the always-wonderful Ms. Maite Uzal from the sometimes-drowsy Ms. Lisa Lambert."

Presenting the award in Lisa Lambert's absence were actors Peter Charney and Justin Chesney; both have worked on one acclaimed production of "The Drowsy Chaperone." And Charney worked with Lambert in the first reading, at Roy Arias Studios in NYC, of Chip Deffaa's musical play "The Family that Sings Together" (published by Drama Source). Charney has also served as assistant director of two shows in New York that Uzal has co-starred in, "The Irving Berlin Ragtime Revue" and "Mad About the Boy."

Charney and Chesney presented Uzal with a plaque, as well as copies of the "Drowsy Chaperone" cast album and vocal score. Uzal commented: "I was always told in school that 'The Drowsy Chaperone' was a perfect show for me and that I should look into the role of 'the Drowsy Chaperone'.... Maybe the fact that I am now being given this award is a sign--another note of encouragement--and in time I will be involved in an actual production of it."

Justin Chesney commented: "'The Drowsy Chaperone' is one of my favorite shows that I've ever had the pleasure to perform in. It's fun and takes a large amount of stage energy to pull off. I believe that Maite exhibits this energy in her performance in 'Mad About the Boy.'"

Uzal's castmates from "Mad About the Boy" offered high praise for her. Katherine Paulsen commented: "Maite Uzal is perhaps the single most professional and focused actor I know, while simultaneously exuding compassion for every actor and crew member around her. She is a true joy."

Amanda Andrews said: "Maite is an inspiration, on- and off-stage. She performs from such a genuinely passionate place and is a true triple-threat. Off-stage she is a positive influence on the company, setting an example of professionalism while being a lovely person who is down-to-earth."

Emily Bordonaro, who worked with Uzal on "The Irving Berlin Ragtime Revue" stage show (as well as the cast album, which is now in production). commented: "Maite is a wonderful person to work with! She has a positive attitude and a terrific work ethic! And she has wonderful stage presence! I hope to get the chance to work with her again!

ASCAP Award-winning playwright/director Chip Deffaa, who emceed the award presentation, commented: "It is certainly fitting to have awards honoring women in theater, and especially fitting to present such an award in this particular theater, which for more than 40 years has been run by a remarkable woman of the theater world, Edith O'Hara, 98--and we're honored by her supportive presence in this theater today. She's raised two gifted actresses, her daughters Jenny O'Hara and Jill O'Hara--I remember when they first delighted Broadway audiences in shows like 'Promises, Promises' and 'George M!'--and her granddaughter, Sophie Ullett, is a singer/actress, as well."

Deffaa added that he found it apt that Uzal should be the recipient of the Lisa Lambert Award. "These are two amazing women. A citizen of Canada, Lambert not only co-created 'The Drowsy Chaperone'--a unique musical comedy, created with love and great wit, for which she won both Drama Desk and Tony awards--she co-starred in the first production. She's worked in the theater, in films and television. And everyone in the theater community likes her. When she celebrated her birthday at Birdland Jazz Club, so many bright lights from the theater community celebrated with her, and joined her in singing her songs. She's as good as it gets, among writers of her generation for the theater.

"Maite Uzal, like Lisa Lambert, is a multi-talented woman. She's earned a law degree and has actually practiced law in the past; but her first love is theater, and she gave up law to pursue it. The first time I saw her perform, I knew at once that I wanted to work with her someday; I could feel the intelligence behind her singing/acting choices. She sang one song, and I felt like I'd witnessed a complete drama; there was a beginning, a middle, an end; and I got caught up in the emotions. She done two shows for me so far. I think of her as the grown-up in my current merry band of actors--one who is not only talented, but mature, reliable, and a steadying influence on the others. Some of the other actors can be like perennially naughty children, and she teaches by example how an actor should approach the work. She's serious about it, and gives 100%, always. In her spare time, I know she's currently writing a play she will be premiering with the Rebel Theater Company, 'Becoming Your Son.' I love people who develop all their talents. I'd work with her any time."

The "Lisa Lambert Award" is the last of three awards being presented at the 13th Street Rep this year. Deffaa commented: "This theater has a long tradition of encouraging, nurturing, developing new artists, and awards are a great part of that tradition. Edith O'Hara takes justifiable pride in all of the respected performers and writers she's helped give their start--Amy Stiller, Jamie DeRoy, Barry Manilow, Christopher Meloni, Chazz Palminteri.... I'm sure she'll be adding Maite Uzal to the list of performers she cites as having helped along the way. She enjoyed Uzal's performance at the theater today.

"For me, these annual awards are part of what makes the 13th Street Theater special. I'm glad we're able to honor, in our way, both Lisa Lambert and Maite Uzal. And even cast some light on the award-presenters, who have bright futures in the theater. Peter Charney has worked well with me in various capacities--actor, assistant director, lighting designer, and more--for seven years; he can do anything in the theater. He has a play of his own opening this Thursday at Dixon Place, "The Puppet Show Man,' starring Matt Engle. And Justin Chesney sparkles on stage--I've witnessed it in his work in college and in theater in New York; he's currently the standout performer in the Rep's production of 'Rapunzerella White.' I hope he can be in a play of mine someday."

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