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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Famous stage actors, Hollywood stars and big-name musicians are set to gather at the Tony Awards on Sunday, when American theater's top honors are announced.
Critics were split on who will win some of this year's awards, but Hollywood names including Denzel Washington, Scarlett Johansson, Jude Law, Laura Linney and Catherine Zeta-Jones are scattered among the nominees for the show, which will be broadcast from New York's Radio City Music Hall.
Punk rock band Green Day was expected to perform along with appearances by well-known figures including Cate Blanchett, Will Smith, Katie Holmes, Antonio Banderas, and rapper and now Broadway producer Jay-Z.
Two shows that transferred from London, "Red," a play that uncovers the angst of artist Mark Rothko, and a revival of campy musical "La Cage aux Folles," were heavily favored to win best play and best musical revival.
Unlike previous years, competition for the best new musical award is fiercest, with "Fela!" a dance musical telling of Nigerian Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti favored along with "Memphis," about the roots of rock'n'roll and at lesser odds, Green Day's musical "American Idiot."
The Jay-Z produced "Fela!," which blazed its way onto Broadway in November and tied for the highest number of Tony nominations with "La Cage aux Folles," would be the first musical to center on the lives of black characters to win best musical since "Ain't Misbehavin" in 1978.
"Red," in which British Actor Alfred Molina has been hailed for capturing the intensity of Rothko, is the bet to win best new play, ahead of "Next Fall" about two gay New Yorkers in what some critics regarded as a lukewarm season for new productions.
The best actor in a play is a tight race between Molina and Denzel Washington, who has edged ahead for his starring role in a revival of the August Wilson play "Fences." Liev Schreiber, Christopher Walken and Jude Law are also nominated.
Viola Davis is widely tipped to win best actress in a play for her role opposite Washington playing a long married couple in "Fences," which is also a likely winner for best play revival. It won best new play in 1987.
British stage actor Douglas Hodge is tipped to win best actor in a musical after he won an Olivier Award for the same starring role in "La Cage aux Folles." "Fela!" star Sahr Ngaujah is less favored.
Montego Glover in "Memphis" will compete with Catherine Zeta-Jones for her turn in "A Little Night Music" to win best actress in a musical.
"Will & Grace" star Sean Hayes will host the awards with appearances by Kelsey Grammer, Angela Lansbury and Helen Mirren and other celebrities, who have been recruited by producers to appear in Broadway productions in an aim to bolster profits.
During the 12-month Broadway season that ended on May 23, ticket sales on Broadway have been steady despite some productions failing to live up to hype, including "American Idiot" and "The Addams Family."
The Tony Awards, which do not consider off-Broadway productions, are voted on by about 700 producers, actors and writers. They were established in 1947 and are named for actress, stage director and philanthropist Antoinette Perry, whose nickname was Toni.
Editing by Cynthia Osterman