Tony Awards preview: Denzel Washington vs. Bryan Cranston for Best Actor (Play)

Two-time Oscar champ Denzel Washington (“Glory,” “Training Day”) and four-time Emmy winner Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad“) lead a crowded field of potential nominees in this year’s Tony Awards race for Best Actor (Play). 

Washington returns to Broadway in a revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun,” which was last seen on the rialto in 2004. Kenny Leon directed that Tony-winning revival and this one and he also helmed the 2010 remounting of August Wilson‘s “Fences” that won Washington a Tony in this category. Observers were skeptical as to whether or not the 59 year-old actor could play a 35 year-old, but reviews for Washington have been downright rapturous. 

Tony Awards preview: What plays could contend? 

Cranston is a strong contender for his Broadway debut as Lyndon Johnson in “All the Way.” This new work by Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Schenkkan (“The Kentucky Cycle”) tops our Experts predictions for Best Play.

He received strong notices for his commanding performace in this three-hour epic that chronicles the turbulent first year of LBJ’s presidency. Cranston could be this year’s big star who proves himself on Broadway much as Tom Hanks did last year with “Lucky Guy.”

Three-time Emmy champ Tony Shalhoub (“Monk”) stars in the smash hit adaptation of Moss Hart‘s beloved memoir “Act One.” He contended last year for his featured performance in “Golden Boy” and could reap his first lead bid for his scene-stealing turns as both the elder Hart and his writing partner George S. Kaufman.

A pair of double bills showcased four fellows from England.

Two British Sirs — Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen — starred in Samuel Beckett’s seriocomic “Waiting for Godot” and Harold Pinter’s stark drama “No Man’s Land.” McKellen, who won this race back in 1981 for the original production of “Amadeus,” plays the flashier roles in both productions, which could give him the edge over Stewart, who was nominated in this category for “Macbeth” in 2008.

Tony Awards preview: What play revivals could contend? 

Mark Rylance is trying to make it a hat trick, following wins for “Boeing-Boeing” (2008) and “Jerusalem” (2011). He led a double bill of “Richard III” and “Twelfth Night” which played to capacity audiences earlier this season. While his performance as Olivia in “Twelfth Night” was ruled to be a featured one, he could be nominated in this race for “Richard III.” Samuel Barnett, who played the leading role of Viola in “Twelfth Night,” was a featured nominee for “The History Boys” in 2006. 

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Among those hoping for their first Tony nominations:

Daniel Radcliffe in the title role of “The Cripple of Inishmaan,” which opens just days before the deadline for eligibility. As he played the part to acclaim in London last year perhaps Tony voters, who snubbed him for his first two appearances on Broadway in revivals of “Equus” and “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” may be finally ready to embrace him. 

Emmy nominee Zachary Quinto (“American Horror Story: Asylum“) could ride the wave of critical and box office success for the revival of Tennesee William’s “The Glass Menagerie.” 

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Oscar nominee James Franco (“127 Hours”) and Chris O’Dowd make their Broadway debuts in the first Broadway revival of John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” in 40 years. 

And “Dexter” star Michael C. Hall returns to the rialto for the first time in more than a decade in Will Eno’s new play, “The Realistic Joneses.” His co-star Tracy Letts won this race last year for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.”

Nominees will be announced on April 29 and the 68th annual Tony Awards take place on June 8. Predict the winner of the Best Play race below using our easy drag-and-drop menu. 

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