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What to expect at the 2014 Tony Awards

NEW YORK (CBS) -- Plenty of Broadway star-power will fill Radio City Music Hall on Sunday for the 68th annual Tony Awards, set to air live on CBS starting at 8 p.m. ET.

A slew of celebrities are expected to hit the red carpet, while casts from some of Broadway's biggest shows will hit the stage for the Hugh Jackman-hosted ceremony taking place in New York, just steps from the Great White Way.

"A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder" leads the pack with 10 nominations, followed by "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" with eight nods. "After Midnight," "Beautiful - The Carole King Musical," "The Glass Menagerie" and "Twelfth Night" are all up for seven nominations each.

Which stars and shows will walk away with a Tony? So far, in some the categories at least, there are no clear winners it seems.

"There hasn't been a juggernaut frontrunner," Gordon Cox, theater editor at Variety, told CBS News. "This season I have no idea what's going to happen. It's kind of anyone's game right now."

Still, buzz is building around a few of the contenders. In the best musical category, "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder" will compete against "After Midnight," "Aladdin," "Beautiful - The Carole King Musical." A lot of eyes are on this year's leading nominee, but Cox thinks "Beautiful" has a "really strong chance." The show, which traces Carole King's rise to stardom, features plenty of familiar hits, including "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?" and "One Fine Day."

"I don't think one should underestimate the power of Carole King...And people have a strong affection for her and that show does deliver exactly what it needs to," said Cox. "It tells an emotional story with music that people have a really strong affection for and it also is self-evidently a production that will do well on the road. So I think there are a lot of reasons to vote for that show. Just as there are a lot of reasons to vote for 'Gentleman's Guide.' A lot of people admire how well-made it is and how old-fashioned it is -- with a modern wink to it. It's very clever and funny. Both those shows have strong chances."

Up for best musical revival is "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," "Les Miserables" and "Violet." With Neil Patrick Harris in the lead role, "Hedwig" has received plenty of attention and could walk away with a Tony come Sunday.

"It's a very good show that particularly people in the theater district have loved ever since they first saw it when it premiered off-Broadway in 1998. And now it's getting a very well-received production with a big star in a very well-received turn in the title role. That one has the momentum behind it right now," said Cox.

And don't be surprised to see last year's Tony Awards host grace the stage this year. A lot of signs are pointing to Harris as this year's potential winner for lead actor in a musical. Harris, who portrays a German transsexual in "Hedwig," is up against Ramin Karimloo ("Les Miserables"), Andy Karl ("Rocky") and Jefferson Mays and Bryce Pinkham, who both star in "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder." Many critics enjoyed Mays taking on multiple roles in "A Gentleman's Guide," so even this category is up fro grabs.

The lead actress in a musical category, though, is arguably a bit more difficult to predict with Mary Bridget Davies ("A Night with Janis Joplin"), Sutton Foster ("Violet"), Idina Menzel ("If/Then"), Jessie Mueller ("Beautiful - The Carole King Musical") and Kelli O'Hara ("The Bridges of Madison County") all in the running this year.

"It's a category full of people who are sort of major Broadway divas in the best sense of the word," said Cox. "They are people who have legitimate star power on Broadway. So it's a tough one. It's starting to look like there's momentum behind either Kelli O'Hara -- and she hasn't won a Tony yet - or Jessie Mueller who plays Carole King quite well in 'Beautiful.' And she also has quite a lot of support. Those would be the first Tonys for either of them. Idina Menzel and Sutton Foster, who are also significant contenders, have their own trophies to go home to if they don't get [one this year]."

Menzel, though, has garnered a lot of attention fresh off the success of the animated hit movie "Frozen," so it will be interesting to see if that momentum will continue.

"It's like my religion," Menzel recently told CBS News about theater. "I don't know what I believe faith-wise, but I know when I'm onstage and when I'm performing it's the only time when I feel like I'm out of my body in some way."

This year's best play contenders are "Act One," "All the Way," "Casa Valentina," "Mothers and Sons" and "Outside Mullingar." This one could go to "All the Way," Robert Schenkkan's play about the first year of Lyndon Johnson's presidency, with Bryan Cranston in the lead role.

"It's a big ambitious, brainy play that tackles an interesting moment in American history," Cox said. "It's boosted by a stellar performance by Bryan Cranston who's really hot right now. There's a lot going for that play. Although none of the plays got flat-out rave reviews. A lot of people liked 'All the Way' but they had some reservations about it, which is true of a lot of the other play candidates."

Cranston, meanwhile, could find his way onto to the Tony stage if he wins for another category: lead actor in a play. He's up against Samuel Barnett, ("Twelfth Night"), Chris O'Dowd ("Of Mice and Men"), Mark Rylance ("Richard III") and Tony Shalhoub ("Act One").

"He's really the anchor," Cox said about the "Breaking Bad" actor. "He's onstage for the almost entire three-hour running time of that play...It's a significant performance. Although Chris O'Dowd was also quite well-received for his performance in 'Of Mice and Men.' I know a lot of people have quite a bit of respect for all the other actors in that category."

A lot of attention surrounds Audra McDonald for her portrayal of Billie Holiday in "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill." If she wins Sunday it will mark her sixth Tony.

"She's got a very small voice," McDonald told CBS News of Holiday. "This old voice of mine just go up a little bit and come down a little bit. But because she was imitating instruments, there's a hornlike quality to it."

McDonald is up against Tyne Daly ("Mothers and Sons"), LaTanya Richardson Jackson ("A Raisin in the Sun"), Cherry Jones ("The Glass Menagerie") and Estelle Parsons, ("The Velocity of Autumn").

No matter who walks away a winner, Jackman, for one, says he hopes to put on a good show.

"I see myself as someone who is prepared to have a go," he told CBS News. "If I think about Sunday night, I'm going to try something in the opening that honestly I don't know if I can pull it off. And I kind of love that feeling. I love the feeling of just, 'It's a little nerve-racking, but let's go for it.'"

Jackman will have plenty of help along the way with performances by the cast of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," along with nominee Foster with the cast of "Violet." Alan Cumming, meanwhile, will reprise his Tony Award-winning role in a performance from the revival of "Cabaret," and Menzel will sing a song from "If/Then." Plenty of cast performances are expected, too, including "Aladdin," "Les Miserables," "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical," "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder," "Bullets Over Broadway" and "Rocky."

The cast of "Wicked" will celebrate the show's 10th anniversary with a performance at this year's Tonys. Sting will preview a number from his upcoming musical, "The Last Ship," and Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight will join Fantasia for a performance with the cast of "After Midnight."

Presenters include Kevin Bacon, Matt Bomer, Wayne Brady, Zach Braff, Kenneth Branagh, Patricia Clarkson, Bradley Cooper, Fran Drescher, Clint Eastwood, Emilio Estefan, Gloria Estefan, Vera Farmiga, Will Ferrell, Tony Goldwyn, Anna Gunn, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ethan Hawke, Carole King, Zachary Levi, Lucy Liu, Kate Mara, McDonald, Leighton Meester, Alessandro Nivola, Zachary Quinto, Emmy Rossum, Liev Schreiber, Orlando Bloom, Barrett Foa, Jonathan Groff, T.I., LL Cool J, Samuel L. Jackson, Judith Light, Rosie O'Donnell and Patrick Wilson.

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