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Brigitte Lacombe Philip Rinaldi Publicity
FILE - This file image released by Philip Rinaldi Publicity shows Denzel Washington, left, and LaTanya Richardson Jackson during a performance of "A Raisin in the Sun," at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in New York. This Broadway season has been rich with roles for African-Americans and audiences are responding, from the packed Brooks Atkinson Theatre, where the musical "After Midnight" celebrates Duke Ellington's years at the Cotton Club, to the standing-room only Circle in the Square, where Audra McDonald is channeling Billie Holiday, and to the Ethel Barrymore Theatre where Washington and Richardson share a stage with Anika Noni Rose and Sophie Okonedo. (AP Photo/Philip Rinaldi Publicity, Brigitte Lacombe, File)

On the eve of the Tony nominations ... An uncertain mood on Broadway

NEW YORK — It’s Tony Award nomination time and this year that means a lot of nail-biting. Not only are there no obvious front-runners for best musical or play, but there’s also virtually no lock in the acting categories.

With the possible exception of Audra McDonald, Bryan Cranston, Denzel Washington and Neil Patrick Harris, few performers are guaranteed a spot Tuesday when nominations are revealed. The top prize — best musical — has plenty of candidates, but most have bugged critics for one reason or another.

The nominations will be announced from The Paramount Hotel in a televised event co-hosted by the star of HBO’s “Looking,” Jonathan Groff, and “Elementary” cast member Lucy Liu.

The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing, joint producers of the show, will host the glittery ceremony from Radio City Music Hall on June 8. It will be broadcast live by CBS.

There were 34 nominators this year, selecting candidates for 26 competitive categories of Tony Awards. Some 870 Tony voters — members of professional groups such as the Wing, the League, Actors’ Equity Association, the Dramatists Guild and the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society — will decide the final awards. Only Broadway shows that opened in the 12 months ending on April 24 are eligible.

Top musical candidates this year include “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” “Rocky,” “Aladdin,” “If/Then,” “Beautiful,” “The Bridges of Madison County,” “After Midnight” and “Bullets Over Broadway.” Mixed reviews have hurt many and only “If/Then” and “Aladdin” are doing very well at the box office.

A new rule this year allows for a fifth nominee in the four major production categories — best musical and play and best revivals for each — if at least nine shows are eligible and the fifth-highest vote-getter finishes close enough to the fourth. With 12 new musicals, the rule could apply.

The best new play category might include Will Eno’s “The Realistic Joneses,” James Lapine’s “Act One,” Terrance McNally’s “Mothers and Sons,” Robert Schenkkan’s “All the Way” or Harvey Fierstein’s “Casa Valentina.”

Best actress in a musical could likely mean nods for Idina Menzel (”If/Then”), Kelli O’Hara (”The Bridges of Madison County”), Sutton Foster (”Violet”), Michelle Williams (“Cabaret”) or Mary Bridget Davies (”A Night with Janis Joplin”).

Best actress in a play could mean nominations for McDonald (”Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill”), Tyne Daly (”Mothers and Sons”), Cherry Jones (”The Glass Menagerie”), Rachel Weisz (”Betrayal”), Rebecca Hall (”Machinal”), Toni Collette (“The Realistic Joneses”) or LaTanya Richardson Jackson (”A Raisin in the Sun.”)

A ruling last week that Alan Cumming would be ineligible for a lead acting musical prize for the new revival of “Cabaret” means that category could be filled by Ramin Karimloo and Will Swenson, both stars of “Les Miserables;” Andy Karl from “Rocky;” Zach Braff of “Bullets Over Broadway;” Steven Pasquale of “The Bridges of Madison County;” Jefferson Mays of “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder;” or Harris, from “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.”

Cranston (“All the Way”) and Washington (“A Raisin in the Sun”) are expected to be nominated for best actor in a play, perhaps joining Daniel Radcliffe (”The Cripple of Inishmaan”), Chris O’Dowd (“Of Mice and Men”), Michael C. Hall, (“The Realistic Joneses”) or Zachary Quinto, (“The Glass Menagerie”).

On Monday, the Tony Awards Administration Committee said it will present New York City’s Signature Theatre with the 2014 Regional Theatre Award.

This is the first year that the regional award has been open to theater companies in New York.

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