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Witches, puppets, and a boy from Oz vie for Tonys

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Tune in to the Tony awards on Sunday night and you may feel there's little going on culturally that doesn't involve characters who are green.

The most nominated show on Broadway is "Wicked" - which jauntily explores the early years of the witches of Oz, including the one who lived in the West and whose skin is a color only Shrek's mother could love.

The musical, which has been more popular with audiences than critics, has 10 nominations that could garner it a "Lord of the Rings"-style sweep at the awards show, which comes at the end of a season of mixed success for Broadway. But some attendees are counting on the Tonys to provide more variety than was displayed at this year's Oscars.

"I think it's going to be a very tight race in many categories," says Anika Noni Rose, nominated for her supporting role in the Tony Kushner civil rights-era musical, "Caroline, or Change." "We have a phenomenal amount of talent on Broadway this year."

The awards program, broadcast on CBS, is hosted for the second year by actor Hugh Jackman, whose transition from "X-Men" to Broadway is complete with his nomination as best leading actor in a musical for "Boy From Oz," about the late Australian entertainer Peter Allen.

In recent years, producers of the annual Antoinette Perry "Tony" awards have aimed at broader - and younger - audiences than usual, tapping popular figures like Rosie O'Donnell and Mr. Jackman to host. This year, performers will feature non-Broadway acts such as Tony Bennett and hip-hop artist Mary J. Blige. Capturing the energy of New York is also a goal, and performances from the nominated musicals and plays will be televised from around the city.

"This is not about converting football fans to watch the Tony awards, this is about getting theater fans to watch," says Jed Bernstein, president of the League of American Theaters and Producers.


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