Thirteen-year-old Cherry Hill resident Marco Porras loves theater. He also happens to love the movie “A Christmas Story.” Porras’ favorite character from the film is Schwartz, the snarky best friend of the film’s narrator, Ralph.
So when Porras found out “A Christmas Story: The Musical” was coming to the Walnut Street Theatre, there was no question he was going to audition.
“I was very excited,” he said.
Porras didn’t just audition and get a part in the show. He is now playing his favorite character for hundreds of theatergoers each weekend.
Porras, along with fellow Cherry Hill residents Jillian Henderson, 12, and Jordan Budney, 12, are performing in “A Christmas Story: The Musical.” The show is playing at the Walnut Street Theatre through Jan. 10.
Porras is a theater veteran, having performed in shows at the Walnut Street Theatre and other community theaters in the past. However, he said auditioning and being selected to play his favorite character from his favorite Christmas movie is extra special.
“I was jumping up and down, running through the streets,” Porras said. “I was so excited.”
Henderson and Budney are part of the children’s ensemble. The ensemble performs a number of songs throughout the play. Henderson performs in the weekday shows, while Budney plays the ensemble/Mary Jane for the weekend performances.
The ensemble parts appealed to both Henderson and Budney as they would get to tap dance as well as sing. Both love to dance.
“I wanted to audition because I thought it would be a great experience,” Henderson said. “It had a lot of tap. I’ve been dancing for six years.”
“They did a lot of tapping, and I’ve been tapping for a long time before this,” Budney said.
Budney was ecstatic when she found out she was chosen for the ensemble.
“I was running around the house and telling all my friends about it,” she said.
Rehearsing for the musical began in mid-October and involved a lot of work in learning the songs and the dance numbers. There have been other challenges as well. One of the challenges for Budney has been the constant costume changes.
“The challenge is running around in the different scenes and the quick changes,” she said. “You can’t stop.”
Porras plays Schwartz during the weekend. With two shows on most Saturdays and Sundays, Porras has been challenged with keeping up his energy.
“There’s a lot of shows,” he said. “The big challenge has been my voice has been going, because I have four shows every weekend.”
All of the hard work paid off for the actors when the show officially opened on Nov. 18. Henderson described the feeling of preparing for the first show as being unlike any other.
“It’s so much fun,” Henderson said. “You have your own dressing room and get all ready. When I get backstage, I am so excited to perform.”
Budney has performed in local shows before, but never on a stage like Walnut Street Theatre. Despite the large stage, Budney said she hasn’t been nervous during performances.
“When I get on stage, I feel completely fine,” she said. “I feel like I belong there.”
Porras said acting is all business once he walks onto the stage.
“I love theater and I love to act,” he said. “That’s all that’s on my mind.”
For the actors, performing is more than just rehearsals and shows. All of them have made new friends from around the Philadelphia area as well.
“One night, we had a huge sleepover with the whole cast,” Henderson said. “It was really a lot of fun.”
Porras said the cast has really bonded over the past couple months and keeps in close contact even when they are away from the theater.
“We have a really close relationship with each other,” he said. “We even have a group chat named the Leg Lamp Friends.”
This likely won’t be the last time theatergoers see Porras, Henderson or Budney on stage. All are looking forward to doing more shows at the Walnut Street Theatre in the future.
“I’ve been telling my grandparents that the next show they have that kids can audition, I want to try out,” Henderson said.
“A Christmas Story: The Musical” runs through Jan. 10. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.walnutstreettheatre.org.