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No clear favorites to earn Tony nods

– 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 this morning 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 of CBS.

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. About 870 Tony voters 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.

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.

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