Spring is the time when big Hollywood stars come to New York and atone for their artistic sins by working for slave wages — or, in the case of Martin Short, up to $30,000 a week-in the Theatre of the Legitimate. Others performing the rite this season: Tony Danza, Julie Andrews, and Jeff Daniels. Then there are Marla Maples and Larry Gatlin, hoofing up a storm in The Will Rogers Follies, atoning for God knows what. Visitors hoping to witness these attempted miracles during spring or summer vacations should order early by calling Tele-Charge (TC) at 800-233-3123 (in New York, 212-239-6200); or Ticketmaster (TM) at 212-307-4100. Broadway prices peak at $65, Off Broad-way, at $40. Give my regards to Visa.
NEW ON BROADWAY
FOOL MOON Don’t hate them because they’re mimes. Master clowns Bill Irwin and David Shiner are hilariously pa-thetic, as they climb over the audience, swing from the balcony, and get tangled up in the rising curtain. Why? Because they can. Also featuring the smart, bluegrassy sounds of the Red Clay Ramblers. (TM) B+
THE GOODBYE GIRL Or, Neil Simon Isn’t Funny Anymore, exhibit 475. In this musical rehash of Simon’s 1977 movie, Martin Short and Bernadette Peters do their damnedest with a damnable score by Marvin Hamlisch and Simon. And the jokes! Targets include — no kidding — Cabbage Patch dolls and Richard Simmons. Hey, Neil! It’s 1993! (TM) D
REDWOOD CURTAIN Jeff Daniels is barely recognizable as a deranged homeless Vietnam vet, who may or may not be the father of a Vietnamese love child, who has become a piano prodigy with mystical powers and is visiting her rich aunt, who just lost her lumber business in a corporate takeover. Confused yet? Only die-hard Daniels fans (any-body out there?) need apply. (TM). C-
THE SISTERS ROSENSWEIG Wendy Wasserstein’s (The Heidi Chronicles) lightweight comedy about three far-flung sisters is as smart and pretty as a Chanel suit. The play suffers from too many upper-crusty Manhattan in-jokes, but Jane Alexander, Madeline Kahn, and Christine Estabrook, as the sisters, ease the pain as they dance gaily on the emotional tightropes that stretch between adult siblings. With Robert Klein as mem-orable Mervyn the furrier. (TC) B
THE SONG OF JACOB ZULU Just close your eyes and let the exquisite sounds of the South African a cappella group Ladysmith Black Mambazo (best known for its work on Paul Simon’s Graceland album) fill your soul. And try not to let the plodding story — a fact-based melodrama about a young man on trial for antiapartheid terrorism — dull the pleasure. (TC) B
NEW OFF BROADWAY
AVEN’ U BOYS Theater doesn’t get much better than this. Playwright Frank Pugliese declares loudly and profanely that life is mean and love is tough for three young men from Brooklyn’s Italian working class. With a transcendent ensemble cast that includes Ron Eldard, Adrian Pasdar, and Lili Taylor. Warning: strong violence. In the performance I saw, Pasdar got burned with a cigarette, then sliced his forehead. (Hit-Tix, 212-564-8038) A
BACK TO BACHARACH AND DAVID Actress Kathy Najimy (Sister Act) directs this funny, four-person musical revue of Burt Bacharach and Hal david tunes — from ”Don’t Make Me Over” (1962) to ”Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” (1969). The songs hold up astoundingly well, and the singers whiz through the production decked out in bell-bottoms and peace signs. Songstress Sue Mosher even transforms ”I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” into a genuinely heartbreaking ballad. Who knew? (TM) A
FORBIDDEN BROADWAY 1993 Braodway folks consider it an honor to be skewered in this 11-year-old revue made up entirely of show parodies, and composer Gerard Alessandrini updates it regularly to make sure both the great and the grating get their due. This year’s targets include Julie Andrews, singing (to the tune of ”I Could Have Danced All Night”) ”I Couldn’t Hit That Note,” and Marla Maples doing ”I Never Did A Man I Didn’t Like.” Okay. Maybe not everyone is honored.
JEFFREY Sick of worrying about AIDS, a dashing young gay actor/waiter opts for celibacy. Wickedly funny. Screenwiter Paul Rudnick (Sister Act, I Hate Hamlet) looks past the pathos and finds the absurdity of Manhattan life in the not-so-gay ‘90’s. (TM) A
PUTTING IT TOGETHER The hottest ticket in town, and it deserves to be. Julie Andrews, Stephen Collins, Chris Durang, Michael Rupert, and Rachel York merrily roll through this goofy revue of Sondheim tunes, set against an impressionistic dinner party. Songs from scores as disparate as Sweeney Todd and Dick Tracy are most cleverly reduced and re-tailored for the setting; amazing, the variety of songs made possible by jealousy and champagne. A
WRONG TURN AT LUNGFISH Less a play than a Very Special Episode in search of a sitcom. George C. Scott is the lovable but crochety blind man. Jami Gertz is the hard-knock girl who befriends him. Tony Danza is the ne’er-do-well boyfriend who hubba-hubbas about in a tight T-shirt. Directed and co-written by — who else? — Garry Marshall (TC) C-
WE STILL LIKE…
CATS (musical) because the kids love it CRAZY FOR YOU (musical) for its bouncy Gershwin score FALSETTOS (musical) for a good cry GUYS AND DOLLS (musical) if you can get a ticket JELLY’S LAST JAM (musical) for Ben Vereen, who joined the cast on April 8, and for Gregory Hines, with the show through May 2 (TC) LES MISÉRABLES (musical) because everbosy else likes it (TC) SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME (drama) for The Crying Game’s Stephen Rea (TC)…and THE WILL ROGERS FOLLIES (Musical) for the dog act (TM)