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Osmond charms as Beast

DONNY OSMOND is charmingly campy, good-looking and grand as the villain Gaston, patterned on our old friend Elvis, in “Beauty and the Beast.” I caught his first performance and was entranced seeing so many young women with babes and families with children buying tickets. Youth is still the 48-year-old Donny’s long suit. When he’s onstage, kids are part of the party. Donny is divine, as is everyone in the cast, especially Sarah Uriarte Berry as “Belle.” … It takes Donny a while after the curtain to get from the Lunt-Fontanne to Joe Allen’s cafe a block away. Hundreds of autograph seekers flood West 46th Street. He tries to pose for every photo and signs endless autographs. At Joe’s, over tostadas and Diet Cokes, he jokes: “Tonight’s performance is as long a run as my first time on Broadway.” Donny is referring to his debut in “Little Johnny Jones,” 25 years ago. It opened and closed the same night. “My favorite thing that has happened so far is James Nederlander, the man who produced ‘L.J.J.,’ sent me a bouquet.” Donny’s smile makes not only troubles melt but me too. “I want to pay my dues, which I couldn’t do the first time. I want to be a Broadway guy.” … Donny reminisced about working with showbiz greats during his TV years on “The Donny & Marie Show.” The DVD boxed set of this will be available in November. His favorite legends? Lucille Ball, Milton Berle, Jack Benny. He is now recording an album of ’70s songs. Right in mid-tostada, Donny bursts into acapella with the KC & Sunshine Band hit, “That’s the Way (I Like It).”

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I WAS trekking down Lexington Avenue the other eve en route to Swifty’s between 72 and 73. Who do I come upon but Liza Minnelli in a red sweatshirt with Martha’s Vineyard written across the front. And I recall being with her when she bought it. Liza has dropped 46 pounds, she says “on Weight Watchers.” When I tried to convince her to come with me for a bite, she waved me off. “No, I have to study a script to do ‘Law & Order.'”

MARIE ANTOINETTE’S youthful misadventures dominate Sofia Coppola’s film “Marie Antoinette.” It was Coppola’s intention to draw parallels between the excesses of modern privileged youth and the royals at the court of Versailles. (Skinny rich teens, sex, drugs and no sense of responsibility.) Coppola uses rock music to accent Antoinette’s reckless behavior — in one sequence Bow Wow Wow’s “I Want Candy” blares over the soundtrack as the princess and her group devour endless desserts. If you want a more glamorous and emotional version of Marie Antoinette, look to MGM’s glossy 1938 film starring Norma Shearer and Tyrone Power. (For all its softly diffused stellar romance, it is a surprisingly accurate account.) And if you wish to really understand this tragic historical figure, hunt down Stefan Zweig’s brilliant 1935 biography.

EVENTS INTERFERED with writing about Elaine Stritch and her second club opening at Cafe Carlyle. It was one to remember with Barbara Walters and Kelly and Rosie O’Donnell on hand. This time Elaine has a real dress on, a black chiffony number that shows her great gams and threatens to show us even more (Designer Charles Nolan got Elaine out of men’s shirts and tights! Bravo, Charles.) She is still a national treasure, someone who, at age 82, has surprised us over and over with her unusual talent. She closes Nov. 4.

(E-mail Liz Smith at MES3838@aol.com)

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