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Sing out for Tony Awards

The 1998 Tony Awards will be a battle of big musicals produced by Broadway's new titans, as Livent's Ragtime and Disney's The Lion King snapped up a total of 24 nominations Monday.

Ragtime, with 13 nomination and The Lion King, with 11, are major contenders in nearly every category, including the all-important best musical.

The Lion King, director Julie Taymor's lavish retelling of the Disney animated film, and Ragtime, based on the E.L. Doctorow's novel about America's loss of innocence, have been among the season's most popular shows.

Both Disney and Livent are relative newcomers to the Broadway producing scene, using large infusions of money and marketing to sell their shows. The Lion King is Disney's second New York production, after Beauty and the Beast in 1994. Livent has also produced Kiss of the Spider Woman and the revival of Show Boat.

Also nominated for the top musical prize were The Scarlet Pimpernel, a critically drubbed work by the composer of Jekyll & Hyde, and Side Show, a short-lived musical about Siamese twins. It has become a cult favorite.

The revival of Cabaret had 10 nominations, including honors for its two stars _ Natasha Richardson and Alan Cumming _ and its director, Sam Mendes.

Two hits from London _ Art, Yasmina Reza's comedy about the tribulations of friendship, and The Beauty Queen of Leenane, Martin McDonagh's examination of a mother-daughter relationship _ were nominated for best play.

Their competition will be two memory plays _ John Leguizamo's autobiographical one-man show about growing up Hispanic, and Golden Child, David Henry Hwang's recollections of his grandmother's conversion to Christianity in China. Leguizamo received a nomination for best actor.

Beauty Queen had a clean sweep in the acting categories. The entire cast _ Marie Mullen, Anna Manahan, Brian F. O'Byrne and Tom Murphy _ was nominated.

The stars of Side Show, Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner, received a rare joint nomination in the best actress in a musical category for their performances as Siamese twins Daisy and Violet Hilton.

Two pop and rock idols also received nominations. Elton John, one of seven collaborators on the music for The Lion King, received a nomination for best score. So did Paul Simon, whose musical The Capeman was one of the season's biggest flops.

The Tony Awards will be given out June 7.

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