Does ‘Book of Mormon’ have prayer of breaking Tony Awards record?

The Book of Mormon” leads with 14 bids heading into tonight’s Tony Awards. That is one shy of the record 15 nods reaped by both “The Producers” in 2001 and “Billy Elliot” in 2009. “The Producers” hauled home a record even dozen Tonys, taking every race in which it contended (it had double Best Musical Actor bids and three of the Featured Musical Actor slots). “Billy Elliot” won 10 Tonys, losing both of its bids for Featured Musical Actress, one of two bids for Featured Musical Actor, Score and Costumes.

“The Book of Mormon” could well win 13 races (Josh Gad and Andrew Rannells are both nominated for Best Musical Actor). Our panel of experts foresee this smash hit tuner from “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone and Tony champ Robert Lopez (“Avenue Q”) taking away at least eight Tonys: Best Musical, Director (Casey Nicholaw and Parker), Score, Book, Orchestrations, Lighting Design, Scenic Design and Sound Design.

However, they expect Kathleen Marshall to win her third Tony for choreographing the revival of “Anything Goes” and Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner to prevail for expanding on their Oscar-winning costumes for “Priscilla Queen of the Desert.”

The Best Musical Actor race remains competitive and Gad could steal the award away from frontrunners Norbert Leo Butz (“Catch Me If You Can”) and Tony Sheldon (“Priscilla Queen of the Desert”). And for the featured perfomer prizes, “Mormon” merrymakers Rory O’Malley and Nikki M. James are close behind John Larroquette (“How to Succeed”) and Laura Benanti (“Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown”).

Of the other Best Musical contenders, “The Scottsboro Boys” is second with 12 nominations in all. This hard-hitting story of racial injustice was the last tuner from the Tony-winning team of Kander & Ebb and shuttered last fall after just two months. Our experts expect it to be shut out of the awards.

The other two shows in contention for Best Musical are a pair of movie adaptations: “Sister Act” (five nods, including Best Musical Actress for Patina Miller) and “Catch Me If You Can” (four, including that Best Musical Actor bid by Butz). Neither show is forecast to win any Tonys.

The Best Musical Actress category has just four contenders due to the lack of leading roles for women in musicals. Miller, who is making her Broadway debut, is likely to lose to Sutton Foster from “Anything Goes.” Foster, who won this race in 2002 for her Broadway debut in Best Musical champ “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” has contended unsuccessfully three more times (“Little Women,” 2005; “The Drowsy Chaperone,” 2006; “Shrek,” 2009).

“Anything Goes,” which has nine nods in all, is expected to win Best Musical Revival over “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” This is the third rialto production for each of these musicals. While “Anything Goes” won the 1988 combined revival award, the 1995 production of “Succeed” was bested by “Show Boat” in the musical revival race. Though this “Succeed” scored eight bids, Daniel Radcliffe was snubbed for the leading role that won Tonys for both Robert Morse (1962) and Matthew Broderick (1995).

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