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An abundance of possibilities in critical categories for 2005 Tony nominations

NEW YORK (AP) _ From A (Alan Alda) to Z (Zeljko Ivanek) and all the letters of the alphabet in-between, the possible nominees for Tony Awards are abundant this year, particularly in the male-actor, revival and musical categories.

But then, with 39 productions, this has been a bustling Broadway season, one of the busiest in more than a decade. So the joy of those anointed could be tempered by a nagging question: Who will be left out when the 2005 Tony Awards nominations are announced May 10? There may be a few surprises.

"In many of the categories, it is anybody's guess who is going to be nominated," says Howard Sherman, executive director of the American Theatre Wing, which founded the Tonys in 1947.

"I think those who want to prognosticate are going to have a tougher time this year because there are so many strong contenders. That to me is very healthy _ when we have so much that is worthy of recognition and no one is quite certain where things are going to end up."

Let's look first at the new musicals, with 11 shows eligible for the four best-musical slots.

"Some years, we barely had enough musicals to fill a category, and this year there is plenty to choose from _ and most of them are still running," says Jed Bernstein, head of the League of American Theatres and Producers, which since 1967 has jointly produced the Tonys with the Wing.

There's no certainty like uncertainty but several musicals will most likely be assured places. "Monty Python's Spamalot," the season's biggest musical hit, and "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," another popular show, come to mind.

That leaves two more spaces to be filled. Among the most likely contenders vying for those two spots: "The Light in the Piazza," "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" and, perhaps, "All Shook Up."

Among the dark horses are such shows as "Little Women" and "Brooklyn." Three already departed productions, "Good Vibrations," "The Frogs" and "Dracula," are even farther out of the running.

Five new plays opened on Broadway this season _ "Doubt," "The Pillowman," "Brooklyn Boy," "Democracy" and "Gem of the Ocean" _ more than enough to fill the four best-play positions. One won't make it, despite the fact all were generally well received, particularly "Doubt" _ winner of 2005 Pulitzer Prize for drama _ and "The Pillowman."

The four leading roles in "The Pillowman" are all men. Ivanek, along with his co-stars Billy Crudup, Jeff Goldblum and Michael Stuhlbarg are possible nominees in either the lead or featured actor-play categories.

"That's where the competition is especially fierce," Bernstein says, referring to the actor categories.

It helps that there have been several all-male ensemble shows such as "Democracy," "Twelve Angry Men" and "Glengarry Glen Ross," which, besides Alda, features such actors as Liev Schreiber, Tom Wopat and Jeffrey Tambor.

And we haven't even gotten to other stars such as James Earl Jones in "On Golden Pond," Adam Arkin in "Brooklyn Boy," Brian F. O'Byrne in "Doubt," James Naughton and Richard Thomas in "Democracy" and Bill Irwin in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" Even Denzel Washington, who received mostly tepid reviews for his performance in "Julius Caesar," might get a nod if the Tony nominators want to reward a Hollywood star for working on Broadway.

Women who most likely will get nominations in the actress-play category include Cherry Jones in "Doubt," Laura Linney in "Sight Unseen," Kathleen Turner in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" and, perhaps, the stars of Broadway's two current Tennessee Williams revivals, Natasha Richardson in "A Streetcar Named Desire" and Jessica Lange in "The Glass Menagerie."

That play-revival category may feature those Williams classics, but more certain to make the cut are the critically praised remountings of David Mamet's "Glengarry Glen Ross," Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" and, perhaps, "Twelve Angry Men."

"In general, the quality of the season has been very good," Bernstein said. "You have got shows that have broad appeal _ not just for the most dedicated theater fans. That always helps. The proverbial family from the suburbs or visitor from overseas has had a lot to choose from."
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