Ali Stroker has become the first wheelchair-using actor ever nominated for a Tony Award.
The 31 year old, best known for her guest-starring role as Betty Pillsbury on the TV show “Glee,” received a nomination for Broadway’s highest honor for her role as Ado Annie in the 2019 revival of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” — a role that wasn’t originally written with reference to disability. “They didn’t have an actress in a wheelchair in mind. They said I was the best person for the role and I happen to be in a chair,” Stroker explains via e-mail.
The Ridgewood, New Jersey, native auditioned in person before sending in a tape for the callback and ultimately winning the role. “I knew this role was special! I loved it from the moment I auditioned for it. It feels amazing [to be nominated]. I am so honored and excited. Also, to be nominated with Mary Testa, who is a friend and Broadway legend, is a dream,” she adds.
Stoker and Testa are both nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical, bringing Oklahoma’s total nominations to eight – the most decorated production of the musical in its history.
Stroker’s nomination follows a recent increase in visibility for actors with disabilities, including RJ Mitte in “Breaking Bad,” Micah Fowler in “Speechless” and Amy Trigg in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s “Taming of the Shrew” and “Measure for Measure.”
“I think [the nomination] is really important and exciting for my community. The exposure is so important. I hope this is just the beginning for the disabled community,” says Stroker. But just because she’s nominated and attending the June 9th ceremony doesn’t mean a day off for the mezzo-soprano. After all, the show must go on. “I’m doing the matinee at 1:30 p.m. Then, I do the red carpet, then I perform and then I get back in my dress and party. I’m going with my parents and my boyfriend and I can’t wait for that.”
And if she wins? “I will be so excited and then want to have a huge, special and delicious dinner.”
The Tony Awards air Sunday, June 9, 2019 on CBS. “Oklahoma!” runs until June 30, 2019 at The Circle in the Square Theatre at 235 W 50thSt. in New York City.
Photo courtesy of Little Fang Photo.