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No chops like stage chops

Legit actors thrive where movie stars fear to tread

In 2006, it was Julia Roberts in “Three Days of Rain.” This season it was Julianne Moore in “The Vertical Hour.” For every movie-star debutante who fails to light up the Rialto, there’s an Audra McDonald, Donna Murphy or Christine Ebersole to show them that there’s no professional like a legit professional.

Even now, when the synergy between stage and screen is more potent than ever, these bound-to-Broadway thesps continue to thrive.

Each of the three aforementioned Graces reigns supreme in a current production: McDonald as Lizzie Curry in the revival of “110 in the Shade,” Murphy as composer Kurt Weill’s muse and consort Lotte Lenya in “LoveMusik” and Ebersole in the dual roles of eccentric Edith Bouvier Beale and “Little” Edie Beale in “Grey Gardens.”

But not just women occupy this sacred ground. Nathan Lane certainly resided there early in the season with his turn in “Butley” after long runs in “The Odd Couple” and “The Producers.”

If Lane wears Broadway’s mask of Comedy, then Liev Schreiber and Brian F. O’Byrne wear the mask of Tragedy. Schreiber, who has played Shakespeare Off Broadway, is currently starring as shock jock Barry Champlain in a revival of Eric Bogosian’s “Talk Radio.”

O’Byrne has dazzled Broadway in inverse proportion to impressing Hollywood, his most memorable cinematic appearance being a bit part as Clint Eastwood’s priest in “Million Dollar Baby.” But onstage, he just now capped successes in “Frozen” (2004), “Doubt” (2005) and “Shining City” (2006) with this season’s turn as Russian socialist Alexander Herzen in “The Coast of Utopia.”

Michael Cerveris is the equal of Schreiber and O’Byrne on the musical stage. A great Sondheim interpreter, he won a Tony playing John Wilkes Booth in “Assassins” (2004) and was nommed for the title role in last season’s revival of “Sweeney Todd.” This year, he stars as Lenya’s Weill in “LoveMusik.”

And if that’s not a sweet Broadway melody, what is?

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