By JILL LAWLESS
LONDON - Helen Mirren is a favorite to reign at London's Olivier theater awards Sunday for her performance as Queen Elizabeth II in "The Audience."
Mirren is a best-actress nominee for the awards, the British equivalent of Broadway's Tonys.
She stars in Peter Morgan's play about the private weekly meetings between the monarch and Britain's prime ministers over the six decades of her reign. Mirren is no stranger to royalty - she won an Academy award in 2007 for the same role in "The Queen."
She's up against Hattie Morahan for "A Doll's House," Billie Piper for "The Effect" and Kristin Scott Thomas for "Old Times."
Male acting nominees are Rupert Everett for Oscar Wilde drama "The Judas Kiss"; James McAvoy for "Macbeth"; Mark Rylance for a cross-dressing turn in "Twelfth Night"; Rafe Spall for the relationship drama "Constellations"; and Luke Treadaway for "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time."
The National Theatre's acclaimed production of "Curious Incident" - based on Mark Haddon's novel about a mystery-solving boy with Asperger's syndrome - leads the race with eight nominations, while the jaunty musical "Top Hat" has seven.
Nominees for musicals include Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton for "Sweeney Todd," Alex Bourne and Hannah Waddingham for "Kiss Me, Kate" and Heather Headley for "The Bodyguard."
Two political dramas -"The Audience" and rough-and-tumble Parliamentary saga "This House" - are up for best new play, alongside the love story "Constellations" and "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time."
The best new musical nominees are the geeks-made-good story "Loserville"; the Tina Turner tribute "Soul Sister"; the movie-inspired "The Bodyguard"; and the high-stepping "Top Hat."
Winners in most categories are chosen by a panel of theater professionals and members of the public. Nominees for the Audience Award, decided by public vote, are "Billy Elliot"; `'Matilda: The Musical"; `'The Phantom of the Opera"; and "Wicked."
The winners will be announced during a ceremony at the Royal Opera House in London hosted by stage star Sheridan Smith and "Downton Abbey" actor Hugh Bonneville.
Jill Lawless can be reached at http://Twitter.com/JillLawless
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