Actress rolls to unique milestone on Broadway

NEW YORK -- "Spring Awakening" is a century-old play about teenagers coming of age. But this production has a real-life sub-plot about a 20-something making Broadway history.

It's not easy keeping pace with Ali Stroker. The 28-year-old rushed to work and handed out free theater tickets before making some last minute backstage preparations -- all of this as she prepared to debut as the first person in a wheelchair to perform on the Great White Way in a revival of "Spring Awakening."

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Ali Stroker
CBS News

"I never saw anyone in a chair on Broadway," she said. "So I had this dream, and I wanted to make it happen. But no one had ever done it so there was a part of me that was like, okay I'm not gonna get my hopes up because maybe it's not possible."

Stroker has rolled over most barriers in her life. She was just two years old when a car accident left her paralyzed from the chest down. She caught the acting bug five years later.

"I was a little girl in a wheelchair. And then when I started to perform, I felt like I was now an actress and a singer. And it gave me another identity. And it made me feel really good," said Stoker.

As an actress, Stroker has wowed audiences from New Jersey's Papermill Playhouse to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Now she is wowing audiences on Broadway.

Stroker said she had to make casting directors feel at ease choreographing her own movements to match the cast. In "Spring Awakening," Stroker also had to learn sign language. Half of the cast is hearing impaired.

Stroker said she thinks it creates "this different lens and adds a layer of vulnerability to the show that's already so raw and real."

Cast-mate and Emmy Award-winner Camryn Manheim spoke about working with Stroker.

"I learn something from her all the time."

Manheim described Stroker as a force to be reckoned with on stage.

"Ali truly embodies a fierce woman. Brave, courageous, unstoppable. She's a dame man, that girl is a broad man, she's a broad. That's what she is."

Stroker says she has turned many obstacles into opportunities. She has no plans to slow down.

  • Michelle Miller

    Michelle Miller is an award-winning CBS News correspondent based in New York, reporting for all CBS News broadcasts and platforms. Her work regularly appears on the "CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley", "CBS This Morning" and "CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood". She joined CBS News in 2004.