The secrets of NYMF

Did you notice how star-free the Fringe Festival was this year? That's because the stars, hoping to attach themselves to the next breakout hit, have moved to a new corner of the show-tune sky: the New York Musical Theatre Festival. Here's a quick guide to the brightest twinklers.

Jim J. Bullock

CLAIM TO FAME: The Hollywood Squares regular, who once cohosted a talk show with Tammy Faye Bakker, recently appeared in Broadway’s Hairspray.

WHAT’S THE SHOW? The Fancy Boys Follies, a naughty night of gay burlesque with a libretto by David Pevsner, one of the creators of Naked Boys Singing!

REASON TO GO If you’ve ever dreamed of seeing Jim J. Bullock strip onstage—and who can honestly say they haven’t?—here’s your big chance.

Kevin Cahoon

CLAIM TO FAME: Under tons of makeup, he was the Childcatcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; in ’80s drag, he went retrocamp in The Wedding Singer.

WHAT’S THE SHOW? Bonnie & Clyde: A Folktale, which probably won’t end happily. The score is by Newsical’s Rick Crom; actor Hunter Foster wrote the book.

REASON TO GO When he’s not fronting his glam-punk band Ghetto Cowboy, Cahoon is good for musical comic relief; here, he plays a gun-toting sidekick.

Donna Lynne Champlin

CLAIM TO FAME: Playing a Italian barber, Champlin wielded a silly accent and a mean accordion in the John Doyle revival of Sweeney Todd.

WHAT’S THE SHOW? Love Jerry, in which Megan Gogerty sets two brothers’ painful memories of child abuse to song. Doesn’t sound commercial, but who knows?

REASON TO GO Champlin is a smart, sensitive performer who can give this sort of adults-only material both musical and emotional weight.

Chuck Cooper

CLAIM TO FAME: Cooper’s seductive menace has served him well as a pimp in The Life, a lawyer in Chicago and a satanic clothes dryer in Caroline, or Change.

WHAT’S THE SHOW? Twilight in Manchego, by Matt Gould, in which an elementary-school teacher must shepherd his kids through the aftershocks of a local crisis.

REASON TO GO Yes, Cooper is playing the school principal—he’s a formidable-looking black man, after all—but you can bet he’ll bring his own spin to the role.

Mary Faber

CLAIM TO FAME: This up-and-coming button-cute ingenue was one of the best things about Playwrights Horizons’ Saved; she’s also appeared in Avenue Q.

WHAT’S THE SHOW? Pasek and Paul in Concert, a revue of songs by the composer-lyricist team of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who won the 2007 Jonathan Larson Award.

REASON TO GO Faber is absolutely adorable, and she can belt with the best of ’em. Here, she’ll show off her chops with tunes about being young and urban.

Cady Huffman

CLAIM TO FAME: This knockout blond originated Ulla in The Producers, then had a guest stint as herself on Curb Your Enthusiasm.

WHAT’S THE SHOW? Wood, an allegorical musical (by Dan Collins and by Julianne Wick Davis) about normalcy and diversity in a small town.

REASON TO GO As a sexually frustrated housewife, Huffman cross-dresses and sings an 11 o’ clock power ballad about whether or not to leave her hubby.

Ramona Keller

CLAIM TO FAME: The iron-voiced Keller left her Caroline, or Change Radio days behind to make her mark as Paradice in the otherwise forgettable Brooklyn.

WHAT’S THE SHOW? Idaho!, a wacky spoof by Buddy Sheffield and Keith Thompson, in which a mail-order bride winds up falling for the wrong male.

REASON TO GO Keller plays the comic-sidekick part of a black woman disguised as a Native American maid. Expect at least one big-singing blowout.

Brian Charles Rooney

CLAIM TO FAME: Dressed as a girl and singing the part, Rooney shone in the Roundabout’s otherwise dim Threepenny Opera.

WHAT’S THE SHOW? Bedbugs!!!, Paul Leschen and Fred Sauter’s retrofuturist rock-out, in which a mad exterminator mutates bedbugs into hair-metal killers.

REASON TO GO Rooney in drag is always a hoot, and here he’ll be playing a demented French-Canadian chanteuse named Dionne Salon.

Josh Strickland

CLAIM TO FAME: Tarzan may have withered on the vines, but its swinging young star proved that he’s more than justanother pretty loincloth.

WHAT’S THE SHOW? Play It Cool, a team effort set in an underground gay bar in 1950s Hollywood, where rising stars could stay on the down-low.

REASON TO GO Strickland’s strong voice and sensitive-matinée-idol looks should hang just right in a show about the Tinseltown closet.

Barbara Walsh

CLAIM TO FAME: A Tony nominee for 1992’s Falsettos, Walsh recently showed audiences her etchings as the acidic Joanne in the revival of Company.

WHAT’S THE SHOW? About Face, which resets Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing amid the war of the sexes at a 1950s college.

REASON TO GO As Company proved, Walsh can deliver withering zingers with the best of them—a perfect trait for the Bard’s tart-tongued Beatrice.

The New York Musical Theatre Festival runs at various locations through Oct 5.