One familiar star is returning to the Philly stage for a meaningful performance

Chris Ash

With a year of hardship and the after-effects still echoing in certain industries, a night of musical catharsis is something that could be beneficial—in more ways than one. This Wednesday, May 26, the Philadelphia Theatre Company will be live-streaming a one-night-only show to help the company raise funds as it continues to recover from the pandemic and also, for their 2021-22 season. For the event, the PTC has welcomed back Broadway star and Tony Award Winner Ali Stroker for a revival of her Barrymore Award-nominated performance in ‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.’ Stroker will be performing live the night of the 25th after a decade of being absent from the PTC stage.

“I worked at PTC early on in my career and had a blast. I think that bringing theatre back is so important—the world needs live theatre and I want to support PTC in coming back,” says Stroker.

Chris Ash

That support comes naturally to the songstress, who has been quite busy since she was last seen at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre. Stroker won the 2019 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her role as ‘Ado Annie’ in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! She most recently starred in the Lifetime holiday film, “Christmas Ever After” (on top of other television accolades.) She made history as the first actor in a wheelchair to appear on Broadway in Deaf West’s acclaimed 2015 revival of “Spring Awakening.” She’s also performed her cabaret act at Green Room 42 and solo’ed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, New York’s Town Hall, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and Carnegie Hall.

Her mission to improve the lives of others through the arts, disabled or not, is captured in her motto: “Turning Your Limitations Into Your Opportunities.” Stroker and her co-author, Stacy Davidowitz, recently released a heartfelt middle grade novel about a musical-loving girl who fights for representation, pursues her passion, and turns her limitations into opportunities.

“Performing is my favorite thing in the world, [and] I think it always will be no matter what,” Stroker explains as she also describes the performance this week as an evening filled with great stories and songs. “It’s so special to perform on stage right now and I think the music and the entire evening will be really enjoyable.”

On top of her repertoire from her acclaimed performance as Olive in “Putnam,” the evening will also feature highlights from PTC’s 2020-21 season and a tease of a trailer from the company’s mini-documentary, ‘The Tattooed Lady: Make Your Mark’, about the development of the company’s 2022 World Premiere musical The Tattooed Lady.

“Ali is one of the most engaging, warm performers to hit the Broadway scene in some time,” says Paige Price, PTC Producing Artistic Director in a statement. “What really excites us is that she appeared on our stage first – a woman who made history by being the first actor in a wheelchair on Broadway and then the first to also win a Tony Award was also the first person in a wheelchair to appear on the stage of the new Suzanne Roberts Theatre. We’re really proud that our building is fully accessible. There are great stories from Ali’s time here, when she was really moved by the way the theatre was literally built with her in mind.”

Nevin Steinberg

Stroker not only has been making waves in the theatre world while away from the City of Brotherly Love, she’s also been giving back any way she can. The young actress has been a co-chair of Women Who Care, which supports the United Cerebral Palsy of New York City. She also co-founded Be More Heroic, an anti-bullying campaign that tours the country connecting with thousands of students each year on top of leading theater workshops for South African women and children affected by HIV and AIDS with ARTS InsideOut.

“It’s been an amazing way to give back to people who are in need,” she explains. “I have tried to keep the motto throughout the past year: What can I give, instead of what am I going to get.”

Giving this night to the PTC will bring more than just an evening of music, reminiscing and stories…It will also bring life into a theater that has been empty for quite some time.

“What I think is really special about this event is that our audiences will see Ali performing live on our own stage,” continued Price in her statement. “Even though they can’t actually be there in person, they will have the opportunity to become reacquainted with an old friend – the Suzanne Roberts Theatre, which will figure prominently as our ‘set.’ Hopefully it will strike an emotional chord that will make them excited to get back into our space as soon as we’re open again!”

Tickets are on sale now and cost $25. The show kicks off at 7 p.m.

“I hope audiences feel the importance of live theatre and want to support PTC coming back strong,” finished Stroker. “Art is one of the most precious gifts of the world and we all need it right now to fill our souls.”

For more information on the PTC and ‘An Evening with Ali Stroker’ visit philadelphiatheatrecompany.org

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