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The stage stars we are loving right now

See why Patti LuPone, Tom Stoppard, and others made our Ultimate List

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The New Greasers: Laura Osnes and Max Crumm


WHY THEM If there’s one thing that Broadway and reality TV have in common, it’s this: They both love an underdog. As the winners of NBC’s stage showdown Grease: You’re the One That I Want, Laura Osnes and Max Crumm beat out thousands of wannabes to land the roles of Sandy and Danny in a brand-new Broadway production of Grease (beginning July 24 at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre). Never mind that she’s — gasp! — a brunette and he looks more smart-alecky sidekick than leader of the pack. Osnes broke through her Midwestern-girl exterior to reveal the sexy, spandex-clad soprano lurking underneath, while Crumm’s wiseacre confidence and undeniable charisma proved he was born to hand-jive, baby.

THERE ARE WORSE THINGS THEY COULD DO When Crumm heard about the Grease auditions, the L.A.-based actor figured he’d swing by before his CSI audition later that day. (He’s not broken up about missing the ”kid who kills somebody” gig.) Osnes was playing Sandy at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre in her home state of Minnesota and decided she was due for an upgrade. ”I was like, I’m doing the role right now — why not try?” says the actress, who postponed her wedding nearly two months after advancing to the semifinals.

THERE’S NOWHERE TO HIDE…FROM BROADWAY PURISTS Not everybody was ready for a reality show to invade the Great White Way, as evidenced by some snotty theater-blog posts. ”The nicest people you’re going to meet are working on Broadway, and the meanest people you’re going to meet are the people who don’t have a job,” says Crumm. ”I think when the show opens, all those naysayers will go away.” Theatergoers clearly don’t mind the rialto-reality TV convergence: Grease has sold $13.5 million in tickets since January.

THOSE MAGIC (WARDROBE) CHANGES That black spandex number Olivia Newton-John made famous in the 1978 film? Not happening on Broadway. ”I do have black capris,” says Osnes, ”but they’ll be some other material.”

SECRET AMBITION Osnes: ”My dream had always been, ‘I want to be a famous Broadway actress.’ Wow, I’m 21 and I achieved my dream. I need to start, like, building loftier dreams.” Crumm: ”To headline movie musicals. I want to be Ren in Footloose. Rob Marshall, I want to do Footloose!”

Patti LuPone
Gypsy Queen

AGE 58

WHY HER She’s making like Merman in the mother of all musical-theater parts: meddlesome stage mom Rose in Gypsy (July 9 — 29 at New York City Center).

TEENAGE DRAMA This isn’t LuPone’s first Gypsy. In junior high, she took on the title role — high-class ecdysiast Gypsy Rose Lee — and took off her clothes! ”I looked like I Dream of Jeannie,” she says, recalling a skimpy bra-and-harem-pants costume. ”Here I am, 13 years old, stripping in front of my teachers.”

I’LL RETIRE WHEN… ”I am on stage and I don’t know who I am, who they are, what I’m doing, or where I am.”

Frank Langella
The American President

AGE 67

WHY HIM Tony voters recently crowned him Best Actor as disgraced ex-president Richard Nixon in Frost/Nixon, the hit London-to-Broadway transfer. It’s a triumphant peak in a long stage and film career first kicked into high gear by his sexy 1977 turn in Broadway’s Dracula.

UNLIKELY MATCH Nixon was 5 foot 11 and homely. Langella is 6 foot 4 and handsome. How’d he find the man? ”I didn’t want to do a direct imitation,” says the star. ”I couldn’t. I don’t look anything like him. At first I studied how Nixon moved his hands, his mouth. I was very literal. Then I slowly gave up specifics and just began to feel an essence.”

TRICKY DICK REDUX After Frost/Nixon ends its Broadway run Aug. 19, Langella will reprise his Nixonian moves for Ron Howard’s movie version, due by September 2008. Did talk of the part going instead to Jack Nicholson, Tom Hanks, Warren Beatty, or Kevin Spacey irk him? Nope. ”That’s perfectly right and normal. It’s a great role, and I see nothing wrong with any actor making a pitch for it,” says Langella. ”It really doesn’t matter what number you are on the list. It only matters that you end up with the part.”

Tom Stoppard
Rockin’ Playwright

AGE 69

WHY HIM His Coast of Utopia trilogy just won a record seven Tonys; his Czech-revolution drama Rock ‘N’ Roll (with Sinéad Cusack and Brian Cox) hits Broadway in October. He’s proof that cerebral theater is alive and well.

DON’T CALL HIS PLAYS DEMANDING ”Theater is a storytelling art form,” says the British scribe. ”Utopia has a story to tell. Rock ‘N’ Roll has a story to tell. The last thing I’m interested in is using the theater to be demanding.”

”I write because I like doing it. And when I stop liking it, I guess I’ll stop doing it.”