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At the Tony Awards, there'll be kids, high energy

BY MARK KENNEDY, AP DRAMA WRITER

NEW YORK -- Talented children and high-energy musical performances will be on tap Sunday night as the Tony Awards kick off, capping a season that hasn't produced a runaway favorite show and only one starry celebrity nomination in Tom Hanks.

The Tonys will be broadcast live Sunday by CBS from the cavernous Radio City Music Hall, a homecoming of sorts after two years in a much smaller theater on Manhattan's Upper West Side.

Neil Patrick Harris is back for his fourth turn as host and the formula seems locked in: A big, splashy opening number followed by performances by the musical nominees and a crush of big awards at the end.

Likely targets for humor this year will be Shia LaBeouf, who left a revival of "Orphans" before the show opened and then tweeted about it, and Mike Tyson, the ex-boxer who showed up with a one-man show this season. Tyson was spotted performing in one of the telecast's numbers.

"Kinky Boots" and "Matilda the Musical" are the front-runners for the most coveted award - top musical. Both are inspired by British works and both have actors speaking in English actors, but one's DNA is clearly American.

Pop singer-songwriter Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein have given "Kinky Boots" - originally a 2005 film about a failing shoe factory that turns to making drag queen boots - a fun score and a touching book that celebrates diversity. It has generated two leading man nods in Billy Porter and Stark Sands.

"Matilda the Musical" is all British, a witty, dark musical adaptation of the novel by Roald Dahl that is still running in London. Its leading woman is actually a man - Bertie Carver, who plays the evil headmistress Miss Trunchbull.

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