June 26, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT

ALAN CUMMING
Great Scot

Age 33 Why him? He perfected the creepy geek role in Circle of Friends and Emma; now this Scotsman owns Broadway as the gyrating, glitter-nippled, Tony-winning emcee of Cabaret. Work habits Getting in touch with his roots: “There’s a freedom and vulnerability about the Celtic people.” Well, that and rubbing up against cast members before every performance, wishing everyone “Bon theatre.” “That’s French,” he explains. “‘Cause I’m European and weird.” Next? After a role in Eyes Wide Shut, he hopes to make his directorial debut with Private Estate, about his childhood, and plans to adapt Chekhov’s The Seagull, to be set in Scotland during the ’20s.

JOHN LEGUIZAMO
Le Freak

Age “33 3/4” Why him? He earned raves (and two Tony nods) for his Broadway debut, the hilarious, incisive Freak. Work habits To generate ideas, “I gestate, marinate, and stew until I have mental blue balls.” Weirdest career moment “Almost getting into a fistfight with Patrick Swayze” in To Wong Foo drag. “With the pregnant director [Beeban Kidron] sticking her belly between us, and Wesley [Snipes] saying, ‘Let them have it out.'” Next? A biopic of retro-cool bandleader Juan Garcia Esquivel.

JULIE TAYMOR
Lion Queen

Age 45 Why her? Do shiny new Tonys for Lion King direction and costume design mean anything? This champion of Asian and Indonesian ritual theater is the unlikely queen of Disney’s 42nd Street. Work habits She does cultural research but also has “a lot of vivid dreams.” Next? Her feature debut, Titus, with Anthony Hopkins; an opera, Grendel; and another Broadway show—all with composer/companion Elliot Goldenthal.

AND GIVE IT UP FOR…

…some other players who’ve helped make New York theater go boom: THE DRESSER In his hip Off Broadway mock concert, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, John Cameron Mitchell, 35, bends hearts and genders as a transsexual Cold War bride reaching for rock stardom…. IRONY LADY Not even Mother Teresa’s sacred to Sandra Bernhard, 43, whose I’m Still Here…Dammit hits Broadway in October…. MAYER OF NEW YORK Thanks to director Michael Mayer‘s understatement and confidence, A View From the Bridge took home the Tony; this month Mayer kicks off the ’98-99 Broadway season with his drama Side Man…. GROUP THEATRIC Kudos to Disney for cleaning up the Great White Way, but theater’s most sparkling comer is Drama Dept., home of critical darlings As Bees in Honey Drown and June Moon. Next up? A revival of Irving Berlin’s As Thousands Cheer.

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