Meet the boys with cerebral palsy playing Tiny Tim on Broadway this year

The two boys have become best friends while rehearsing for their shared role in the Broadway production.

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/ Source: TODAY
By Terri Peters

Jai Srinivasan and Sebastian Ortiz have been facing challenges since they were infants: Both were diagnosed with cerebral palsy before they turned one, and have spent their childhoods undergoing therapies and surgeries.

But starting November 20, Jai, 8, and Sebastian, 7, will be facing a different kind of challenge: Sharing the role of beloved Charles Dickens character Tiny Tim on Broadway in a production of "A Christmas Carol."

Jai said his disability has helped him in the role, and called his Broadway debut "a nice experience."

"It's not really challenging," Jai told TODAY Parents. "It's actually pretty easy because the boy I'm playing has a disability."

Jai Srinivasan, 8, and Sebastian Ortiz, 7, share the role of Tiny Tim in a Broadway production of "A Christmas Carol." The boys, who also share a cerebral palsy diagnosis, are both represented by Gamut Management.VINCENT TULLO FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

Jai's mom, Kate Sowerwine, says her son was bit by the performing bug a few years ago, when he was spotted at an event for Tommy Hilfiger's line of adaptive clothing by an agent and began modeling.

"He told me that night, when he was in kindergarten, that he wanted to be on stage because he saw the other kids on stage and thought it looked like fun," said Sowerwine. "The following year Jai was on the runway and just to see him on stage — he was shining and happy and confident."

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When Sowerwine heard about open auditions for the role of Tiny Tim in "A Christmas Carol," she knew it was a perfect role for her son. There was only one problem: Her family lives in Virginia.

"I told Jai, 'You do your best, and if you get this, we'll figure out the rest,'" Sowerwine recalled.

Jai got the part and Sowerwine and her husband, who also have a 6-year-old daughter, began making plans to travel back and forth between Virginia and New York City for the production, an effort Sowerwine said has been worth it.

Jai Srinivasan with his parents and sister.Kate Sowerwine

"I absolutely think you should find your kid's passion — whatever makes them happy," she said. "Obviously with cerebral palsy, certain things like sports are difficult, but there's got to be something in your kid that's bright and shiny and I saw that when Jai was on stage. There's always something; you just have to look for it."

Sebastian's mom, Idalia Ortiz, agrees.

"We are just thrilled with this opportunity," said Ortiz, explaining her son shares his sister's interest in musical theater and had always wanted to dance, so they started going to a dance therapy class near their home in New York City to help him achieve his dream.

Sebastian Ortiz with his parents and sister.Idalia Ortiz

Therapists from the class suggested he audition for the role of Tiny Tim.

"I feel good about it," said Sebastian. "I love it. I like to be on stage in front of everybody."

Ortiz and Sowerwine say their sons have become best friends after rehearsing together for the last few weeks. The show runs through January 5, and both moms say their sons will be sad to see the experience end.

Jai and Sebastian at a New York Knicks game together.Kate Sowerwine/Idalia Ortiz

"While Jai is on stage, Sebastian is waiting backstage cheering him on," said Ortiz. "And when Sebastian is on stage, Jai is there waiting for Sebastian."

"That's the really cool thing is to watch their friendship blossom throughout this," said Sowerwine. "It's so inspiring."

So what advice do these inspiring little stars have for other kids with dreams as big as theirs?

"Just try," said Jai. "Go to the audition. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't."

"Always watch out for your dreams," said Sebastian.