Best Actress (2003)
Blessed with a singing voice so powerful it shows up on Doppler radar, Denise Lee, 43, proved this year that she's also one of the area's best serious dramatic actresses. In WaterTower Theatre's production of The Old Settler, John Henry Redwood's lovely play about spinster sisters in 1940s Harlem, Lee didn't sing a note. Instead, she wore dowdy dresses and no makeup and gave a quietly moving performance highlighted by some white-hot chemistry with handsome co-star Kes Kehmnu. Lee also was a knockout in Uptown Players' musical The Last Session. Known for her showstopping way with musical comedy (she's a repeat star of WaterTower's annual Rockin' Christmas Party), Lee does her cabaret thing most Friday nights at Bill's Hideaway (4144 Buena Vista). And if there's a production of Once on This Island in the works, she's probably in the cast. "I love that show," says Lee, "but it would be nice to be called in more often for roles that aren't designated 'minority.'" Look for Lee this fall on television in the role of captured American soldier Shoshanna Johnson in the NBC teleflick Saving Jessica Lynch.