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Meet the Tony Nominees: Ali Stroker of ‘Oklahoma!’

Category Broadway

|by Jeryl Brunner |

“Stay persistent and be yourself. You don't have to be anybody else.”

Just last week, Ali Stroker was nominated for a Tony Award for playing Ado Annie in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! Directed by Daniel Fish, this pared-down and breathtaking version is probably unlike any other Oklahoma! you have seen before. The show, which began at Bard College, played most recently at St. Ann’s Warehouse, where it was a sold-out sensation. The production is now playing at Circle in the Square Theatre. Stroker made her Broadway debut in Deaf West’s revival of Spring Awakening, a show in which she became the first actor in a wheelchair to appear on Broadway. Stroker was also a fi­nalist on The Glee Project, has guest starred on Glee and also appeared on TV in Charmed, Lethal Weapon, Drunk History and Instinct

Ali Stroker and Will Brill in ‘Oklahoma!’ at the Circle in the Square Theatre (Photo: Little Fang Photo)

Ali Stroker and Will Brill in ‘Oklahoma!’ at the Circle in the Square Theatre (Photo: Little Fang Photo)

What went though your mind when you heard about this production of Oklahoma! 
Ali Stroker
: It was sort of a different, edgy, stripped-down version of the musical. I auditioned a year ago in March. And then I was called back. But I was in Cleveland, Ohio when I was called back. I was supposed to get on a plane and fly home. But I was on the plane, and the plane got canceled, and I couldn't get back to New York for the callback. So I went back to my extended stay in Cleveland, where I was doing a show (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee). My boyfriend and I made a callback tape. You never think that you're going to get a job from a tape. Three days later I found out I got it.

What qualities does Ado Annie have that you love? 
: I love Ado Annie so much because she is so full of life and wants to explore. She has so many questions and she wants to explore her sexuality through these relationships. She is not afraid. 

She is especially wonderful when you think about the time in the 1940s when the show was created.
: She is a woman who knows what she wants. I love her. 

And for people who might say, “Oh, I've seen Oklahoma! so many times. Why should I see this show again?”
: You have never seen Oklahoma! like this before. It really is a portrait of Americana. Right now more than ever, it's so important for us to look in the mirror and see where we're at in order to move forward. This story is relatable. These characters are people you know. It's an important story to tell right now in 2019. 

Can you talk about your Broadway debut in Spring Awakening
AS: I made my Broadway debut in 2015 and became the first actor in a wheelchair to ever be on Broadway. That changed my life. I had always dreamt of it. When you have a dream for a really long time and then it comes through, you realize dreams and goals can be real. They don’t just have to be something that you imagined in your head. It gives you a different kind of confidence that there are other things that have never been done, or that I really want, that I can achieve. 

What was one of the first Broadway shows you saw? 
: The first Broadway show I ever saw was Beauty and the Beast. I was in the first grade. It was larger than life, and so cool. Everyone was so talented and I thought, “I want to do that someday.” I was living in Ridgewood, New Jersey at the time, where I was born and raised.

What advice do you wish you could have told your younger self who was starting out?
: Stay persistent and be yourself. You don't have to be anybody else. You be you. And then that is what is going to help you get to where you want to go. Don't try to be anybody else. 

How has playing Ado Annie changed you? 
: Getting to play a principal in a show, and then to getting to do it on Broadway, makes you feel really powerful. And it makes you feel like your voice, your talent and your presence matters. It is counted. And it is important to a production. 

When the curtain comes down, how do you get back to you? 
: I have this beautiful relationship with my partner, David. Just being in touch with him makes me feel connection. Calling him, going home and having dinner and being in our world makes me come back. I think as actors, it’s nice to have interactions with people after a show. And sometimes it feels really good to go home, put on your pajamas and have dinner at home with your person. 

For more of the best of Broadway, check out our list of the Top Shows in New York in May 2019.

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