Ali Stroker became, last night, the first person in a wheelchair to win a Tony, nabbing the Best Featured Actress in a Musical award for her work in as Ado Annie in “Oklahoma!”
But she broke ground, first, in New Jersey.
According to a Star-Ledger feature on her that was published when she starred in “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn in 2011, “The Paper Mill says it believes Stoker is the first actress in a wheelchair to take a lead role in a professional musical.”
Stroker, who is 31 and grew up in Ridgewood, also participated in Paper Mill’s Summer Musical Theater Conservatory.
“Congrats to our own Ali Stroker on your history-making Tony Award win,” the theater posted last night on Facebook, along with the photo above, of Stroker with actor Will Blum in “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” (Blum is, coincidentally, performing on Broadway too, now, in “Beetlejuice”).
In the Star-Ledger interview, Stroker told Filichia: “My life has prepared me for rejection. I learned it when I wasn’t invited to birthday parties. But I’ve noticed that some of the most successful people in show business have been able to make themselves specific. I’ve had no choice — I’m specific. You have to think outside of the box if you want to be an original.
“And I want to be an original.”
Last night — in her acceptance speech at the Tony awards show, which took place at Radio City Music Hall in New York — she said: “This award is for every kid who is watching tonight who has a disability, who has a limitation or a challenge, who has been waiting to see themselves represented in this arena. You are.”
For tickets to “Oklahoma!,” visit oklahomabroadway.com.
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