United Solo Special Award 2023

United Solo™ is proud to present the annual United Solo Special Award, which honors outstanding solo artists who performed their shows outside the Festival. These are artists who create captivating performances with sensitivity, audacity, and wisdom. They remind us of immense power of a singular performer, and the possibilities of solo storytelling.

Omar Sangare, Founder and Artistic Director of United Solo, presented the 2023 Special Award to Charles Busch, playwright, director, cabaret performer, and author of the new book, Leading Lady: A Memoir of a Most Unusual Boy. Charles Busch, Tony Award-nominated writer of Tales of the Allergist’s Wife and the long-running hit Off-Broadway play Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, and a Sundance Festival award winner, has occupied a unique place in the entertainment world over his more than 40-year career.

In his acceptance speech Mr. Busch said, “It ain’t easy being a solo performer… I really would like to thank United Solo for this beautiful award and for making this solo performer, both on stage and off stage, feel a part of something bigger.”

The 2023 United Solo Special Award nominees are: Lewis Black in Tragically, I Need You, Dee Dee Bridgewater in Dee Dee Bridgewater with NYO JazzCharles Busch in Leading Lady: A Memoir of a Most Unusual Boy, Liz Callaway in Screen GemsAlex Edelman in Just for UsJudy Gold in Yes, I Can Say That!James T. Lane in Triple ThreatTrevor Noah in I Wish You WouldNancy Redman in A Séance with Mom, and Wanda Sykes in I’m an Entertainer.

Lewis Black

Picking up where his last special left off, Lewis Black brings his inimitable insights to the post-pandemic state of world in Tragically, I Need You. Black’s comedic brilliance lies in his ability to make people laugh at the absurdities of life, with topics that include current events, social media, politics, and anything else that exposes the hypocrisy and madness he sees in the world. He has performed for audiences throughout Europe, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States to critical acclaim as a stand-up, actor, and author.

Dee Dee Bridgewater

Over the course of a multifaceted career spanning four decades, Grammy and Tony Award-winning Jazz giant Dee Dee Bridgewater has ascended to the upper echelon of vocalists, putting her unique spin on standards, as well as taking intrepid leaps of faith in re-envisioning jazz classics. Her performance in Dee Dee Bridgewater with NYO Jazz at Carnegie Hall this year, proved once again how powerful and transcendent her stage presence and voice are.

Charles Busch

The Tony Award-nominated writer of Tales of the Allergist’s Wife and the long-running hit Off-Broadway play Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, and a Sundance Festival award winner, Charles Busch has created a unique place in the entertainment world as a playwright, LGBT icon, drag actor, director, and cabaret performer. His 2023 memoir, Leading Lady: A Memoir of a Most Unusual Boy is a poignant, deliciously anecdotal account of a talented artist’s Oz-like journey in the worlds of Off-Broadway, Broadway, and Hollywood.

Liz Callaway

Liz Callaway has left an indelible mark on and off Broadway. She has performed in hits like Merrily We Roll Along and Baby, for which she received a Tony nomination. She portrayed Grizabella in Cats and was part of the original cast of Miss Saigon. Callaway has lent her vocal talent to animated films including Aladdin and the King of Thieves, and Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride. Emmy winner, Liz Callaway combines favorite numbers from theatre and films in her compelling solo show Screen Gems.

Alex Edelman

In response to anti-Semitic threats, Alex Edelman covertly attended a meeting of White Nationalists that became the backbone of the relevant and hilarious stories in Just for Us. Edelman is known for his award-winning solo shows, including sell-out hits in London’s West End. At the start of the pandemic, he served as the head writer and executive producer of Saturday Night Seder, a star studded 70-minute special on YouTube, that has raised $3.5 million for the CDC Foundation (COVID-19) Emergency Response Fund.

Judy Gold

Judy Gold knows the value of a good joke – and the steep price of silencing comedians. Unnerved and infuriated, Judy shares her reverence for the intimacy of collective laughter and her passion for the vital work comedians do to bring us together, make us think, and speak truth to power. Based on her book, the comedy veteran took the stage in Yes, I Can Say That!, to challenge fascism, political correctness, and short-sighted hypocrites. The show is a call for truth, kindness, and most of all, laughter.

James T. Lane

In his solo show Triple Threat, James T. Lane offers a tour through his life from South Philadelphia to NYC. The show looks behind the facade that Broadway. Underlying the moments of Lane’s rise to fame, beyond the struggles with addiction, which threaten to bring him down, is an even more painful ache: the racism that has accompanied Lane each step of his career. Lane’s virtuoso acting, singing, and dancing draw the audience to experience some of his darkest moments of the soul. 

Trevor Noah

Emmy-winning comedian Trevor Noah filmed his third standup special, I Wish You Would, after announcing that he was ending his tenure on The Daily Show. In the special, Noah performs a series of impressions of U.S. presidents, and tells personal stories of “learning to speak German, modern communication, and his love for curry,” according to the Netflix press release. The show is filled with Noah’s clever sense of humor, and delivered brilliantly and effortlessly.

Nancy Redman

Award winning performer Nancy Redman joined forces with iconic director Austin Pendleton for their fourth collaboration, A Séance with Mom, in 2023. The show, consists of nostalgia with sophisticated dark humor. Nancy’s solo shows have brought her numerous awards at the United Solo Theatre Festival. Redman has earned a place in the top echelon of the nation’s comedians. She was also a two-time prize winner on America’s Funniest People (ABC), and was featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Wanda Sykes

As a follow-up to her Emmy-nominated 2019 stand-up special Not Normal, Wanda Sykes filmed her second Netflix special I’m an Entertainer in February 2023. Known for her social commentary, Sykes delivers “her insightful and ferocious wit and candor audiences have come to know and love,” reads the official description. Aside from her recent specials, Sykes’ other recent credits include The Upshaws, HBO Max’s Velma, and Netflix’s Q-Force.

This year’s recipient of the United Solo Special Award was announced at the United Solo Gala on November 19, 2023 at 7:00 pm at Theatre Row, NYC. The winner joined such illustrious past honorees of the United Solo Special Award as: Anna Deavere Smith (2010), Patti LuPone (2011), John Leguizamo (2012), Fiona Shaw (2013), Billy Crystal (2014), James Lecesne (2015), Staceyann Chin in collaboration with Cynthia Nixon (2016), Michael Moore (2017), Renée Taylor (2018), Aasif Mandvi (2019), Ian McKellen (2020), Lee Roy Reams (2021), and Dael Orlandersmith (2022).