The Tony Awards cain’t say no to Ali Stroker, who made history Sunday by becoming the first actor in a wheelchair to win the biggest honor in theater.
The actress took home the Tony for featured actress in a musical for her performance as Ado Annie in an edgy revival of “Oklahoma!”
“This award is for every kid who has a disability, a limitation or a challenge who has been waiting to see themselves represented in this arena,” Stroker said after wheeling from the stage wings to accept her Tony.
While playing the bubbly and flirty character, Stroker wheels around tables, the onstage band and other cast members while singing her comedic crowd-pleaser “I Cain’t Say No,” which she also performed on the Tonys telecast.
“I hope they see that anyone can be on Broadway if they’re great, and if they hurl themselves at it with the passion and soul and intelligence that Ali Stroker has,” “Oklahoma!” director Daniel Fish told The Times before the ceremony, in anticipation of Stroker’s telecast number. “There should be no barriers.”
“How I move in my chair is one of the most thrilling parts for me of doing this revival,” Stroker recently told The Times. “All of a sudden, without needing to talk about it, we were addressing disability and sexuality. People are so unsure about how to tackle these subjects, and what I loved is that we didn’t need to talk about them. We just got to see them in action.”
Stroker, who is paralyzed from the chest down from a car accident when she was 2, previously made history as the first Broadway actor who uses a wheelchair (in Deaf West Theatre’s “Spring Awakening” revival in 2015). In the new staging of the landmark 1943 Rodgers & Hammerstein work, Stroker views her character’s song as “an anthem for not apologizing for who we are and what we want, and I think we all need a little bit of that.”
Stroker won the Tony over fellow nominees Lilli Cooper of “Tootsie,” Sarah Stiles of “Tootsie,” Amber Gray of “Hadestown,” and Mary Testa, also of “Oklahoma!”
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