GOOD MORNING: “I always thought (the play) was too long.” Neil Simon wasn’t talking about his newest, “Proposals,” now in its fifth week at the Broadhurst, but about “The Sunshine Boys,” which preems Dec. 8 at the Lyceum. Simon stopped by to see the “Boys,” Jack Klugman and Tony Randall, at the theater Tuesday night. Klugman reports Simon had “given us permission to cut nine-10 minutes” from the original. The 1972 B’way production starred Jack Albertson and Sam Levene and was directed by Alan Arkin; 25 years later, the play is now a co-production between Randall’s National Actors Theater and the Cocoanut Grove Playhouse (where it bowed earlier this year). Klugman says Simon complimented the current troupe directed by John Tillinger. Jack had seen the original production and notes, “It is something to shoot at”: it ran 538 performances. Klugman, 75, and Randall, 77, tell me they would stay in the show “forever,” although it is only skedded to run through Feb. 8. Klugman, who underwent surgery on a vocal muscle in 1989, says his recovery “is a miracle.” He exercises regularly to strengthen the other vocal muscle and “it is stronger than ever.” He performs on stage with a tiny, invisible mike behind his ear. Randall says Klugman “is giving the performance of a lifetime.” This is the third stage venture for the duo, after two “Odd Couple” companies and “Three Men on a Horse.” I spoke to both stars after their matinee performance Wednesday for 1,000 kids from N.Y.’s ghetto. It’s part of the National Actors Theater education program. (The performance cost ’em $35,000). Between shows, Randall was rushing home to see wife Heather, who is expecting their second child in June (daughter Julia Laurette is eight months old). The extra-exuberant Randall said, “I’m expecting a boy.” CBS airs the Woody Allen-Peter Falk “Sunshine Boys” costarrer Dec. 28. And you can always watch a video of the 1975 film version starring Walter Matthau and George Burns, for which Burns won an Oscar.
MANY FORMER KENNEDY CENTER honorees will be on hand at the 20th anni Honors, Dec. 7. They include Gregory Peck, Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman, Fayard and Harold Nicholas, Sidney Poitier, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Jacques d’Amboise, Arthur Mitchell, Leontyne Price, Jerome Robbins, Roger Stevens, and Maria Tallchief. Walter Cronkite will m.c., as he has for all but the first Honors, which were hosted by Leonard Bernstein. President and Mrs. Clinton will be on hand to greet the honorees and guests at the White House Sunday just before the show at the Kennedy Center. Vice President Al Gore is presently in Japan. On Saturday, at the State Dept. dinner (where the honorees actually receive their medals), Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will host; hopefully, she’ll be on hand and not called for any emergency travels … Pre-Kennedy honors, Peck (who will present to Bob Dylan), hosts tonight’s National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony with President and Mrs. Clinton at the Ellipse in D.C. … Liza Minnelli is back in action and will appear at two (sold out) concerts in Moscow’s Kremlin Palace Dec. 13-14. Liza last appeared there in 1994. She next wings to La Vegas to a Dec. 29-New Year’s Eve stand at Bally’s. Liza’s also working on plans for a return to the bigscreen in ’98 … Connie Stevens, receiving accolades for her docu “A Healing,” about women in the military during the Vietnam war, is readying to produce-direct a theatrical feature, “Amazing Grace B. Jones.” It’s based on her experience as a 10-year-old during a stay in Booneville, Mo. She describes it as “a tragedy set in rural America.” Stevens is back from Branson, Mo., where “Healing” received the Yellow Ribbon Medal of Freedom in Tony Orlando’s Theater to an audience of 4,000 veterans. One, who sat next to Connie at the screening, said it was the first time he’d seen the exterior of the “Hanoi Hilton,” where he had been a POW for five years. She’ll screen “Healing” here Dec. 12 at BevHills High and the Wall That Heals, the 250-foot replica of the Women’s War Memorial, will be at the Beverly Gardens Park Dec. 13-14 … .Connie’s daughter Joely Fisher, co-star of “Ellen,” just completed USA network’s “Dark Waters” in Puerto Rico and the talented young comedienne is now paged for several more dramatic pix.
HOW ABOUT “YOU ARE NOT Paparazzi Awards”! Vet Hollywood press agent Julian Myers, along with the Sugar Glider Studios, will honor those familiar faces behind the cameras and ropes at Hollywood’s celeb events at the Glider Studios, Sunday … Oscar-winner Hans Zimmer (“The Lion King”) and wife Suzanne welcomed their first son, Jake, Wednesday at Cedars-Sinai. Zimmer, head of music at DreamWorks, is working on its animated “The Prince of Egypt” and “The Road to El Dorado.” He also scored “As Good As It Gets” and, with the arrival of his son, it’s as good as it gets … MPH Ent. partner Jim Milio and Terri Freeman, Showtime exec assistant, were married Nov. 29 in Florence.