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She’s doing OK! ‘Oklahoma’ is in her wheelhouse

All or nothing: Actress Ali Stroker, sitting in her wheelchair, embraces actor James Blake, who plays one of her character’s suitors in a new production of “Oklahoma!” at St. Ann’s Warehouse Sept. 27–Nov. 11.
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Oh what beautiful warehouse! Oh what a beautiful play!

A new production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “Oklahoma!” now playing at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Dumbo, is the hottest ticket in town. The first two weeks of the run have already sold out — in part because this version had a previous, limited run with rave reviews at Bard College’s summer festival in 2015, which made its Brooklyn premiere even more hotly anticipated, said one of the show’s stars.

“When this production was done three years ago at Bard it got a lot of incredible reviews, but I know a lot of New Yorkers who did not get to see it, so a lot of people are looking forward to it,” said Ali Stroker, who plays the popular-with-the-fellas farm girl Ado Annie.

Stroker says that she was drawn to the character, whose signature song is “I Cain’t Say No,” because Annie’s youthful curiosity gives her a lot to play with.

“She is a such a fun girl to play because she is exploring and realizing her sexuality and her relationships with men,” she said. “And she’s kind of trying to find her way in the world as a woman — she’s a really fun character to explore.”

Annie also mirrors Stroker’s own journey, she said.

“I definitely see a lot of myself in the character. Annie is a ‘yes’ girl, and she says yes to exploring herself, and I feel very close to that,” she said.

Stroker, who was the first wheelchair-using actress to perform on Broadway, said that being cast in the traditionally able-bodied role is an important moment in the representation of disabled people on stage, and that she is thrilled to create more visibility for her community.

“It’s so important for me and I hope that the disabled community can come out to see this,” she said. “It’s a moment because this character wasn’t written to be in a wheelchair, and this can be anybody’s story. I think that it is important that I’m the one playing her.”

The show has a bit of a modern edge, but Stroker says that the production will also elicit nostalgic memories and pride.

“I think this production is important for people to see because it touches on this feeling of what it’s like to be American, and I think right now, people might be shaken on where we are in world,” she said. “I think there’s something iconic about the music that people can feel connected to.”

The show’s grim, black-and-white advertisements might make it seem like the musical will be performed in a minor key, but instead its sprightly songs will be performed by a bluegrass band on stage.

And due to demand, the show, once scheduled to close on Oct. 28, has been extended through Nov. 11.

“Oklahoma” at St. Ann’s Warehouse [45 Water St. at Old Dock Street in Dumbo, (718) 254–8779, www.stannswarehouse.org]. Sept. 27–Nov. 11. Tue–Sun at 7:30 pm, Sat, Sun at 2 pm. $26–$101.

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimon@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @AS1mon.
Posted 12:00 am, September 27, 2018
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