Broadway cheat sheet -- From ''Jelly's Last Jam'' to ''Forever Plaid,'' here's a select holiday guide to the best of New York theater

By Jess Cagle
Updated December 11, 1992 at 05:00 AM EST

Broadway cheat sheet

Ah, Christmas in New York. Bendel’s bags, mistletoe, blinking lights — and that’s just what they’re wearing downtown. If you’re visiting the Big Apple over the holidays, there’s a new theater season waiting for you. Playgoers should order tickets early by calling, for a surcharge, Tele-Charge (tc) at 800-233-3123 (in New York: 212-239-6200) or Ticketmaster ™ at 212-307-4100. Seats average $35 but can swell to $65 for Broadway musicals. But that’s nothing — try buying M&M’s at intermission. ( * Indicates Broadway entries not previously reviewed.)


CATS Kids love it, even though they have to hear ”Memory” again. Try to get seats near the stage for the best cat action. (tc) B

CATSKILLS ON BROADWAY A borscht-belt comedy revue leaving for a national tour in January, in which impressionist Luise DuArt does Katharine Hepburn as a stand-up comic. ”Two Jews walk into a bah…” Funny, just the thought of it. ™ B

CONVERSATIONS WITH MY FATHER Judd Hirsch gives a Tony-winning, take-no-prisoners performance as a Jewish pogrom survivor trying to ignore his heritage. Jim Belushi takes over the role in February. (tc) B

CRAZY FOR YOU Winner of three Tonys last season, including Best Musical, and stuffed with 19 great songs by George Gershwin. (tc) A

*FALSETTOS Michael Rupert is Marvin, who leaves his wife, then loses his lover to AIDS. A funny, lyrical, and profound musical, it says more about family values in two acts than politicians could in six months of campaign rhetoric. (tc) A

*FIVE GUYS NAMED MOE A lighthearted jazz revue, with music by Louis Jordan. Beware: Audience participation required. (tc) B-

*GUYS AND DOLLS Someday people will remember this revival of Frank Loesser’s 1950 musical and brag, ”I saw Faith Prince play Adelaide” — the same way people recall seeing Ethel Merman in Gypsy. In the role of Nathan Detroit, Adam Arkin (Northern Exposure) stands in for Nathan Lane through Dec. 22. (tc) A

*JELLY’S LAST JAM An elegant, impressionistic musical about jazz composer Jelly Roll Morton, who reluctantly retreads his life on the night of his 1941 death. Starring Gregory Hines. (tc) A

LOST IN YONKERS Neil Simon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama about two little boys who move in with their glacier of a grandma during World War II. Closes Jan. 3. ™ B+

LES MISERABLES The big, singing-dancing version of Victor Hugo’s novel. (tc) A

MISS SAIGON No — miss Saigon. (tc) C

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA Come, let me sing for you in my sewer. (tc) B

*THE SEAGULL A dull, dutiful adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s drama with Jon Voight and Tyne Daly, who hams it up as the selfish Russian actress driving her sensitive son (Ethan Hawke) to suicide. It seems she has fallen into the role of Gypsy’s Mama Rose and can’t get up. (tc) C-

THE SECRET GARDEN A rich, adult, musical treatment of the children’s classic. Closes Jan. 3. (tc) A

*SOMEONE WHO’LL WATCH OVER ME Frank McGuinness’ sad and elevating play about the tenuous power of faith. Stephen Rea, Alec McCowen, and James McDaniel are hostages in a Beirut cell. It’s surprisingly entertaining because we see them only during their best moments — fighting, fantasizing, discussing Madonna, and mixing imaginary martinis. (tc) B+

THE WILL ROGERS FOLLIES This harmless musical oddity has become slightly less musical and more deliriously odd since the casting of Marla Maples — in her Broadway debut — as the leading Ziegfeld girl. Country star Mac Davis is folk philosopher Will Rogers, who narrates his life as a Follies show. Directed by Tommy Tune, with songs by Cy Coleman, Betty Comden, and Adolph Green. ™ B


BLUE MAN GROUP: TUBES Three blue performance artists spit paint, bang drums, cover the audience in paper, and tweak the art world. ™ B

THE DESTINY OF ME Undergoing experimental treat-ment, an AIDS activist relives his adolescence from his hospital bed. Larry Kramer’s autobiographical play rambles, but it’s buoyed by a pow-erful current of rage. (tc) B+

FOREVER PLAID A fictional, dead ’60s guy group re-turns with dippy renditions of Beatles songs, a tribute to Perry Como, and a manic re-creation of The Ed Sullivan Show. Kids laugh. Parents wonder what’s so funny. (212-595-7400) A

OLEANNA David Mamet’s macho diatribe against political correctness is boring, but he has raised some hackles by being sympathetic toward his hero — a man accused of sexual harrassment. ™ C

RUTHLESS! A silly, rinky-dink musical — and right now the funniest show in town — about an adorable devil-child who kills for a part in her grammar school musical. All About Eve meets The Bad Seed. (212-254-5076) A-

SPIC-O-RAMA An uneven but endearing one-man show by John Leguizamo (Hangin’ with the Homeboys), a sort of Hispanic Gilda Radner. He impersonates a family of characters (a sassy, finger-snapping mom, a lovable 9-year-old nerd, etc.) on the day of a wedding. ™ B+


RADIO CITY CHRISTMAS SPECTACULAR Epically unhip. Do kids weaned on Pee-wee’s Playhouse really want to see dancing teddy bears, a living nativity scene, and Rockettes in rag-doll drag? But if the show (now in its 60th year) doesn’t wow children, the opulent Music Hall will. Through Jan. 6. ™ The show: C- The showplace: A

A CHRISTMAS CAROL Patrick Stewart (Capt. Jean-Luc Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation) lands on Broadway in a one-man show of Dickens’ classic Christmas tale. Dec. 15-Jan. 3. (tc)

TOMMY TUNE TONITE! A one-man show by one tall Texan. Dec. 25-Jan. 3. ™