Tony Awards won't skimp on the old razzle-dazzle

"Once," nominated for 11 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and for its stars, Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti. BroadwayWorld.com/Boneau Bryan-Brown,Joan Marcus

(AP) NEW YORK - It's time for the Tony Awards, and this year the producers apparently don't want to let you breathe.

Sunday's three-hour telecast from the Beacon Theater will be packed with so many stars and performances — a record 16 numbers will feature moments from musicals, plays and revivals — that cynics might call it kitchen sink programming.

"Every year we've added more and more entertainment," said Charlotte St. Martin, the executive director of The Broadway League, which jointly presents the Tonys with the American Theatre Wing. "You can feel the energy in the room when they're rehearsing."

The explosion of performances is an attempt to showcase as much on Broadway as possible and also an implicit admission that there's no clear, dying-to-see-it front-runner like last year's juggernaut, "The Book of Mormon."

Complete coverage: The 2012 Tony Awards
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In fact, the producers have even invited the cast of "The Book of Mormon" to perform again this year. And, to top it all off, one performance won't even be nearby — the song from "Hairspray" will be performed from a cruise ship in the Caribbean Sea. It promises to be a hectic night.

"It's got that energy of any production," said Heather A. Hitchens, the executive director of the American Theatre Wing. "The excitement and the anxiety hand in hand — that's what makes it work."

Last year's Tonys was seen by 6.9 million viewers, roughly the same number as the year before. But the program, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, posted a 9 percent year-to-year gain in the ratings for the 18-to-49 demographic. The popular Harris is back again this year and he'll be competing Sunday against the "Mad Men" season finale, but this time no NBA postseason games.

He'll also be tasked with trying to MC between performances from the four best musical nominees — "Leap of Faith," "Newsies," "Nice Work If You Can Get It" and "Once."

The four musical revival nominees also get a turn on stage, with performances from "Evita," "Follies," "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess" and "Jesus Christ Superstar." There will even be time carved out for the cast of "Godspell" and "Ghost The Musical," two shows not up for best musical Tony.

As if that wasn't enough, look out for performances from the Tony-nominated plays "End of the Rainbow," "One Man, Two Guvnors" and "Peter and the Starcatcher."

"With plays being such an important part of Broadway, we're excited that we're finding new ways to bring them to the world out there," said St. Martin. "The magic of a play is hard to show on a television screen. We're hoping this helps."

Not everyone can perform, although it may seem like it. One show not invited is "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark," whose producers have tongue-in-cheek decided to hold a special matinee performance on Sunday and offer free tickets to anyone with the first name Tony, Anthony, Antoinette, Toni, Antonio or Antonia.

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