It bearly seems possible. But yes, indeed, The Broadway Bears are about to celebrate their third birthday.

On Tuesday, February 15, the annual display and auction of faux-furry little creatures will be held at the Hudson Theater of the Millennium Broadway hotel at 145 West 44th Street to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. As in past years, these special teddy bears for theater lovers have been costumed and accessorized as legendary stars and/or characters from beloved shows--e g., "Chita Ri-bear-a" in Kiss of the Spider Woman, "Gwen Bear-don" in Sweet Charity, "Bear-ol Channing" in Hello, Dolly!. And, to celebrate the end of the 1900s, there's a new twist this time out.

"The 'Bears of the Century' theme this year is marvelous," says Scott Stevens, originator and producer of the annual event. "We have a bear based on Lillian Russell as Lady Teazle in the 1904 production of The School for Scandal--and it's signed by John Gielgud, who was born that same year. I think that's terrific."

Following a VIP reception at 6:00 p.m. and the general-admission exhibition of the bears at 7:00, the auction will begin at 8:00 under the direction of Lorna Kelly. The minimum bid for each bear is $500, though some of these one-of-a-kind creations have gone to such celebrities as Rosie O'Donnell for several thousand dollars apiece. On the block this year will be bears modeled after Lauren Bacall in Woman of the Year, Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl, John Raitt in Carousel, Douglas Sills in The Scarlet Pimpernel--and Alice Ripley & Emily Skinner in Side Show. Phone bids and pre-bids will be accepted.

For more information on Tuesday's event, or on the Broadway Bears in general, link here to the BC/EFA website:www.bcefa.org. Reservations for the reception/auction can be made by phoning 212-840-0770, ext. 268.