The It List

Stage

IT Loudmouth
MARGARET CHO

AGE 34
WHY HER? With her third stand-up show, Revolution (touring through November), the just-married Cho (to L.A. artist Al Ridenour) proves, yet again, that she is comedy's most fearless superhero: fighting prejudice, championing equality, and trashing Hello Kitty.
ON TALKING DIRTY ''People know I'm not trying to titillate. Sex can be boring and taxing and gross. It's not always romantic or hot Cinemax quality. I show the side people relish but don't talk about except with friends.''
COMIC SHE'D PAY TO SEE '''Weird Al' Yankovic! He's a genius! He came to my house one time and brought me candy. I still have the box -- it's holy.''
BEST CAREER MOVE ''Starting my own company [Cho Taussig Productions].... I'm not owned by anybody, so nobody cares what I say except for those who need it -- the people who are silenced or invisible.''
CAREER SHE'D MOST LIKE TO HAVE ''A cross between Madonna and Christopher Guest. I totally worship Madonna. I grew up with a sense of empowerment with her in the media. I am so grateful to her.... And Guest is f -- -ing hilarious. In A Mighty Wind, Harry Shearer's hair formation is worth the price of admission.''
MALE IDEAL ''There is nobody more fine than Eugene Levy. I don't know why he isn't in the 50 Most Beautiful of Everything. My heart beats so fast when he is on screen. I am not lying.''
NEXT Revolution, the film of her tour, and Behind the Revolution, her own Truth or Dare: ''It's me trying hopelessly to be a diva, even though I buy used makeup off of eBay.''

IT Ingenue
ANTONIO BANDERAS

AGE 42
WHY HIM? Banderas was one Femme Fatale away from silver-screen oblivion (see Saturday Night Live's wicked parody)...until he stepped on stage at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre and reinvented himself as a Broadway leading man. As star of the musical Nine, he's racked up awards (Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle) and accolades (a Tony nomination) for his turn as Guido Contini, an Italian film director surrounded -- and suffocated -- by 16 women.
SHUFFLING OFF TO BUFFALO ''You should have seen me [at] the premiere. I wanted to escape -- I mean literally run, run, run. Exactly like Guido.''
THERE IS NOTHIN' LIKE A DAME Banderas' costars include Chita Rivera, Jane Krakowski, and a slew of other musical-theater veterans. ''So they have a lot of talent,'' he says.
ENCORE, ENCORE! ''I don't want to be a movie actor who comes to Broadway, makes an entrance, puts a flag, goes away, and doesn't come back,'' says Banderas, contemplating a Great White Way return.
HIS FAIR LADY While he admires ''typical Broadway actors'' like Bernadette Peters and Nathan Lane, he really wants to costar with someone he knows a little better: ''I want to work with my wife [Melanie Griffith] on Broadway!''
NEXT HBO's And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself (airing in September); filming the sequel to The Mask of Zorro -- ''everybody would be back except for Anthony Hopkins, who got killed in the original''; and a movie with Pedro Almodovar, their first collaboration in 13 years.

IT Bootee
FRENCHIE DAVIS

AGE 24
WHY HER? Her funkalicious performance of ''And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going'' was the highlight of American Idol 2. And her expulsion from the show over naughty Net pics made America turn pro-French: An online petition to keep Frenchie on Idol garnered more signatures than an antiwar effort. Now the Howard student has hit Broadway, where, in the ensemble of Rent, she tears into the anthem ''Seasons of Love.''
FREE OF FALSE MODESTY ''I'm a great singer. I'm not a bad actress. I move very well.... And you can't help but like me, even if you're trying not to.''
FASHION STATEMENT ''Opening night of Rent, I saw so many 'Save Frenchie' T-shirts. The drawing looks just like me! We need to find the artist and work a deal out, because those shirts are off the hook.''
NO IDOL TIME ON HER HANDS ''American Idol...may have made my success happen faster, but trust me: As determined as I was, I was going to be successful regardless.''
NEXT After a six-month stint in Rent (in no particular order): graduation, recording an album, and law school.
PARDON HER FRENCH ''Nobody can f -- - with my money if I have a law degree.''

IT Ecdysiast
TAMMY BLANCHARD

AGE 26
WHY HER? After taking on the former Frances Gumm in the TV biopic Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows, she's taking it off as another tortured showbiz soul -- Gypsy Rose Lee in Sam Mendes' revival of Gypsy.
THE NAKED TRUTH ''I was always very Christian and very conservative and ashamed,'' she says of her striptease scenes. ''Now people are like, 'Hey, you've got a pretty nice body!'''
THE TAMMY-JUDY CONNECTION ''She's my all-time favorite actress! I sang 'Over the Rainbow' when I was 8 years old, and I just believed every word.... Dreams 'really do come true.'''
INFLUENCE ''My mom, Patricia Rettig. She raised three kids on her own and really taught us how to survive in the world.''
NEXT ''I hope something great! I hear they're making A Star Is Born in the theater,'' she muses. ''That would be great -- to take over that role after Judy Garland.''

IT Drama Queen
EDDIE IZZARD

AGE 41
WHY HIM? His stream-of-consciousness ramblings (or was it his eyeliner?) shook up the stand-up comedy scene. But now the dressed-to-kill Brit has gone legit: He just wrapped an award-winning Broadway run in A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, playing the severely troubled father of a severely handicapped child.
WORST JOB ''Performing in Tamworth shopping center [in] England,'' he says. ''Everyone was driving shopping trolleys through our show.''
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE ''I'm not naturally good right off the bat,'' insists Izzard of his acting. He says he doesn't hit his stride until he's spent some time immersed in a role. ''I'm a bit like a fine wine.''
YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW... ''I'm a big action-movie fan. With content -- as opposed to sort of bonehead let's-hit-'em-with-sticks-and-then-run-about-and-blow-them-up.''
PAGING MR. SCORSESE ''I'd like to have been involved in Gangs of New York,'' he admits. ''The sequel, I think. More Gangs of New York.''
NEXT A world tour starting July 1: Australia, New Zealand, America, Britain, and ''anywhere else I can think of,'' he says. ''I'll probably do tours every number of years -- kind of like Madonna does.''

IT Inanimates
THE PUPPETS OF 'AVENUE Q'

WHY THEM? They're cuddly, fuzzy, and often R-rated. When the puppets of Avenue Q -- plus their human pals -- invade the Golden Theatre on July 11, they'll be Broadway's new song-and-dance stars. Never mind that they have no lower bodies. They are porn-addicted Trekkie Monster (age: ''unsure''); hopeless romantic Kate Monster (25); naive newcomer Princeton (22); the sympathetic but sinister Bad Idea Bears (''your age''); questionably gay Republican Rod (30); and self-described ''vamp, scamp, tramp'' Lucy T. Slut (''back off, bub''). Influences Kate: ''Oprah Winfrey.'' Awww... Rod: ''Barry Manilow -- what a showman!'' Hmmm...
WHY THEY LIVE ON AVENUE Q The Bears: ''A Starbucks on every corner!''
WHAT BROADWAY MEANS TO THEM Kate: ''I'll get to hang out with Antonio Banderas after our shows!'' Princeton: ''Does this mean I get paid?''
TAKE IT FROM LUCY ''Once you've had a puppet, you never go back.''

Originally posted Jun 27, 2003 Published in issue #716-717 Jun 27, 2003 Order article reprints