NEW YORK (Reuters) - Satirical musical "The Book of Mormon" aimed to make history with the most-ever Tony Award wins on Sunday, heading into Broadway's biggest night with 14 nominations.
The Tony Awards, which honor Broadway's best musicals and plays, were being handed out at New York's Beacon Theater in a live televised event hosted by actor Neil Patrick Harris, who opened the show with a musical number declaring that Broadway was "not just for gays anymore."
Crossing the red carpet were celebrities and nominees including Al Pacino, Kelsey Grammer and Chris Rock and actresses Vanessa Redgrave, Whoopi Goldberg and Ellen Barkin.
But this year's Tony winners were expected to feature fewer Hollywood names than last year.
"The Book of Mormon" aims to beat the record of the Mel Brooks musical comedy, "The Producers," which won 12 Tony Awards after it opened in 2001.
The satirical story about the Mormon religion from the creators of the cartoon comedy TV show "South Park" headed into the awards with the most nominations, including for best musical, best book, best original score and two nominees in the best actor in a leading role in a musical category.
Robert Lopez, who helped write the musical along with "South Park" creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, said on the red carpet that Mormons who had so far attended the show, which is filled with plenty of jokes about the religion, had not been offended.
"If they are open minded, they have really, really liked it," he said. "We got a lot of it right. We captured the spirit."
"The Book of Mormon" is followed by "The Scottsboro Boys" with 12 nominations. The short-lived musical was based on a 1930s case in which nine black men were unjustly accused of attacking two white women on a train in Alabama.
Two musical revivals also featured a high number of nominations. "Anything Goes" has nine nominations, led by best actress nominee Sutton Foster, and "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" had eight.
"The Merchant of Venice" is up for seven awards, while the play "War Horse," by Nick Stafford, is tipped to win best play.
Other nominees included Frances McDormand, Edie Falco and Billy Crudup.
(Reporting by Christine Kearney and Chris Michaud, editing by David Lawder)