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Ali Stroker First Wheelchair User to Earn Tony Nomination for Role In 'Oklahoma!'

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On Tuesday, the Tony Awards announced the nominees for its annual award show honoring the best in musical theater from the past year. Ali Stroker, who stars in a revival of the hit Broadway musical “Oklahoma!” earned a nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical. She is the first wheelchair user to earn a Tony nomination.

Stroker first caught the music world’s attention when she starred on the second season of “The Glee Project” in 2012. She later had a featured role on the hit TV musical “Glee.” In addition to other musical theater roles, she eventually landed the role of Anna in the 2015 Deaf West Theatre production of “Spring Awakening.”

According to RespectAbility, like in film and TV, people with disabilities are not well represented on Broadway, including non-disabled actors regularly cast to portray characters with disabilities. While Stroker is being cited as the first wheelchair user to be nominated for a Tony, it’s unclear if she is the first person with a disability to be nominated for a Tony.

In 2015 Stroker explained to Broadway World that she has been able to work with directors and creatives who trust her ability to translate classic Broadway roles as a wheelchair user.

“I just have always felt like my wheelchair has opened doors and that the doors it has closed were not the doors I was supposed to open,” Stroker said. “I understand my vocabulary better than somebody who’s not in a chair because this is what I do and this is how I roll — literally.”

Stroker earned her 2019 Tony nomination for her featured role as Ado Annie in the 2018 Broadway revival of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s classic musical “Oklahoma!” including for her performance of the signature show tuneI Cain’t Say No.” She is nominated in the category alongside Lilli Cooper and Sarah Stiles (“Tootsie”), Amber Gray (“Hadestown”) and Mary Testa (“Oklahoma!”).

“It was a really special moment and I’m so excited,” Stroker told Broadway World in response to her nomination. “It feels like you’re a part of something that will be a part of the progress with theatre — that revivals can be done in a different way and we have a power to allow people to see differently, which is more important now than ever.”

The Tony Awards will broadcast on CBS on June 9 from New York City.

Image via Creative Commons/The Tony Awards Youtube Channel

Originally published: April 30, 2019
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