Two Disabled Actors Cast as Tiny Tim in New 'A Christmas Carol' Broadway Production
In a win for authentic representation, two boys with cerebral palsy were cast to share the role of Tiny Tim in this year’s Broadway revival of “A Christmas Carol.”
If you’re not familiar, “A Christmas Carol” was written in 1843 by Charles Dickens. In the story, crotchety and greedy Christmas-hater Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by three ghosts that show him his past, present and potential future. During a visit from the Ghost of Christmas Present, Scrooge learns that his assistant, Bob Cratchit, has a disabled son, Tiny Tim, and can’t afford all the care he needs. Over the course of the story, Scrooge sees the error of his ways and makes it right to those around him, including Tiny Tim.
Jai Srinivasan, 8, and Sebastian Ortiz, 7, both expressed an interest in performing at a young age. Srinivasan modeled for Tommy Hilfinger’s adaptive clothing line while Ortiz has been taking adaptive dance classes. They were cast to perform in a Broadway revival of “A Christmas Carol,” alternating performances.
Jack Thorne, who adapted “A Christmas Carol” for the Broadway production (along with a yearly production in London), said authentic casting for Tiny Tim has always been important to him.
“One of my bugbears with ‘Christmas Carol’ is when Tiny Tim is not played by a disabled person, because he’s supposed to be a disabled character,” Thorne told the New York Times. “When there’s a shortage of parts for people with disabilities, it’s really important we have disabled people play disabled parts.”
Meet the boys with cerebral palsy playing Tiny Tim on Broadway this year.
— NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt (@NBCNightlyNews) December 14, 2019
For disability advocates, the role of Tiny Tim has a complicated history. Tiny Tim serves as a lesson for Ebeneezer Scrooge, and, in the original, is portrayed as pitiful. Disabled people are not objects for non-disabled people to learn from, nor are people with disabilities helpless. In some productions, Scrooge helps “cure” Tiny Tim’s disability, another ableist trope that perpetuates harmful attitudes about disability.
In an effort to update “A Christmas Carol” to reflect a more realistic and affirming view of disability, Thorne’s adaptation now running on Broadway focuses on character development as opposed to Tiny Tim’s disability. Director Matthew Warchus told the Times in their version, Tim is still disabled and empowered, while Scrooge has a change of heart.
“Scrooge is forgiven by a child,” Warchus said. “That’s the arc.”
Srinivasan and Ortiz add to a growing list of actors with disabilities cast in the role of Tiny Tim in productions of the classic Dickens holiday tale. Across the pond, Lenny Rush plays the role of Tiny Tim in a BBC mini-series based on “A Christmas Carol.” Rush, 10 years old, has spondyloepiphyseal Dysplasia congenita, a form of Dwarfism.
“I think why not cast a disabled actor in the role of a disabled person if they are good at what they do?” Rush told the Daily Mail. “It raises awareness and shows that everyone is different.”
This year saw several other high-profile examples of performers with disabilities cast in prominent live productions. Sydney Mesher became the first dancer with a visible disability to join the Rockettes. Ali Stroker, who uses a wheelchair, was the first wheelchair user to earn a Tony win for her role in “Oklahoma!”
At the same time, the Tony Awards were largely inaccessible to Stroker, as the production team didn’t build a ramp from the audience to the stage for Stroker to accept her award like all the other winners. Stroker told the New York Times she believed the production team did the best they could, but accessibility isn’t just about the logistics.
“I think I had a dream that maybe there could be a ramp built,” Stroker said. “It’s more than just a logistical thing — it’s saying that you are accepted here, in every part of you.”
Congratulations, @ALISTROKER! But REALLY no ramp to allow her to get onstage?? ????♀️ I look forward to seeing more from Ali, and to seeing a new generation of performers with disabilities take center stage! ????♿️???? https://t.co/rjTRMo3BpD
— Tammy Duckworth (@TammyforIL) June 12, 2019
Srinivasan and Ortiz’s casting in “A Christmas Carol” on Broadway is a win for authentic representation. They both hope their casting shows other creators and actors with disabilities they have a right to be on stage just like everybody else.
“Just try,” said Srinivasan told Today. “Go to the audition. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”
“Always watch out for your dreams,” added Oritz.
Jack Thorne’s “A Christmas Carol” will run on Broadway in New York through Jan. 5, 2020. Visit the show’s website to learn more.
Header image via Twitter/New York Times