December 19, 2003 01:25 PM

Proving the critics right — that without its sexy star, Hugh Jackman, there’s just nothing to the Broadway show “The Boy From Oz” — producers of the musical will shut down the production while the “X-Men” star takes his winter and spring vacations.

“Oz,” a musical biography of the late Australian entertainer and songwriter Peter Allen, will be dark from Feb. 1-6 and again from March 28-April 2 while its hardworking star takes some time off, Joe Perrotta, a spokesman for the show, tells the Associated Press.

Traditionally on Broadway, when a star is on vacation, an understudy quietly takes over, though there have been some long-ago special cases in which a guest star is brought in. During a late ’70s revival of “The King and I,” when Yul Brynner took time off, Angela Lansbury took over the female lead role to keep up the show’s star power. Liza Minnelli also once famously took over for Gwen Verdon in the original production of “Chicago.”

Jackman, 35, who is literally the entire show, hasn’t missed a single performance since “Oz” opened at the Imperial Theatre on Oct. 16 and quickly became a must-see tourist attraction, even among such celebrities as Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas, who went backstage after the performance to meet Jackman.

So strong is the Jackman appeal that at a recent post-performance auction of the sweaty T-shirt he wears during the show, a woman in the audience bid $600 — and off Jackman’s chest it came. (The money went to Broadway Cares, which helps people in the theater living with AIDS.)

Despite the initial reviews, which were brilliant for Jackson but brutal for the book, direction and sets (and, in many cases, even for the music and lyrics, all by Allen), “The Boy From Oz” has been doing strong business, setting a house record at the Imperial last week with a gross of $903,803.

It was the third week in a row the musical has broken the house record.

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