Ali Stroker is getting big notice these days, for all the right reasons. The vibrant 31-year-old is already accomplished on the stage and both big and small screens but, this week, she did something that has never been done before. Ali Stoker became the first actress legitimately in a wheelchair (not playing a role) to earn a Tony Award nomination.

It's almost easy to forget about Ali Stroker's means of mobility when she inhabits her role of Ado Annie in the latest revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's “Oklahoma.” Not only is the petite blonde a powerhouse vocalist, but she also pulsates with pure, playful, and very real sexuality as she strolls among the bevy of handsome cowhands sharing the stage.

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The star joins Damon Daunno in meriting Broadway's highest acclaim, and as any fan would notice from their Playbill posters, the pair definitely spark chemistry on stage.

Ali Stroker always knew she was destined to be noticed, as she told “CBS This Morning” on May 2, and now the theatre world, as well as the real world, is seeing every dimension of this dynamic actress, and it has nothing to do with her wheelchair spokes, and everything to do with spirit and determination.

Ali Stroker made history with her Tony nomination this week, becoming the first nominee actress on wheels. [Image source: CBSThisMorning-YouTube]
Ali Stroker made history with her Tony nomination this week, becoming the first nominee actress on wheels. [Image source: CBSThisMorning-YouTube]

Breaking with expectations

Millions of faithful “Glee” fans got to know Ali Stroker as the girl who very affirmatively told Artie Abrams to “wheel away” as Betty Pillsbury on the musical comedy-drama. Stroker was cast for 12 full episodes of “The Glee Project,” and in every scene, she made sure to convey her character as a full human being and a complete woman.

Ali became the first wheelchair-bound student to earn a degree from New York University’s Tisch School of Drama in 2009, and she has not limited the size or the scope of any of her stages.

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She co-starred with Gary Cole in the film, “Cotton” in 2014, and played Tamara in ABC's 2017 chronicle of a child murder-abduction, “Ten Days in the Valley.” In 2016, Stroker made a statement for the disabled and the LGBTQ community through her role in “Spring Awakening.”

Ali Stroker’s current stage at Circle in the Square Theatre puts her fully in view. Both in song and in presence, no one can fail to be impressed by this petite and oh-so-bright star.

Living in power

Ali Stroker never saw actresses or actors in wheelchairs on stages when she was growing up, but what she did have was a family and circle of friends and believers who never lost faith in her. Ali has no memories of not being in a wheelchair, following injuries from a car crash at age two. She always knew her place in life was as a performer.

As with the author of this article, Ali was used to getting the stares and looks from less sympathetic eyes growing up, but from the time she was seven, she felt that she was her "most powerful self” from the stage and that feeling has never left her.

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Gayle King complimented that Ali Stroker is “playing sexy in a wheelchair,” and John Dickerson let out an uncharacteristic sound in appreciation of her talent.

Stroker delights in a role that brings “disability and sexuality together” in such a genuine way. She says the secret to her vocal prowess is getting plenty of sleep and relates that the constant practice hones her vocal cords.

Ali Stroker will be thinking about what to wear on her Tony night, June 9, but whether she snags a Tony trophy or not, more stages are waiting for her immense and inspiring talent.

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