‘Newsies’ gives 9-year-old a chance to shine on stage

Photo: Melissa Cytron

By Megan Rubenstein, Special to the Jewish Light

If you saw the hit Disney musical “Newsies,” which closed the Muny’s 99th season Aug. 13, you’re likely to remember the standout performance of the child actor who played the role of Les. The actor was 9-year-old Gabriel “Gabe” Cytron, a 4th grader at Mason Ridge Elementary School and member of Congregation Shaare Emeth.

“Newsies” is based on the true story of the Newsboy Strike of 1899. Set in New York, Les is the youngest newsboy and brother of the character Davey.

“It’s really fun to play the role of Les because I got to be with all of these people from Broadway. It was an honor,” Gabe said.

Gabe is part of Muny Kids, a performance and training program for talented youngsters who must first audition to be accepted. Out of all of the kids who tried out for general parts in any of the Muny shows, only 13 boys were called back to try out for the role of Les. 


“I was nervous when I tried out because I was a little sick in my original audition,” said Gabe. “I was excited when I got called back and I even dressed for the part in my call back audition.”

When Gabe and his parents, Jeff and Melissa Cytron, found out that he would be playing such a large role in the show, they were ecstatic. Melissa Cytron originally received the call while in the car and could not believe the news.

“We had been waiting for him to turn 9 so he could audition and go to the open auditions,” she said. “We weren’t sure he’d get in his first year. I was excited for him to try out, but when they called to offer him the part I never imagined that would happen.” 

After seeing “Tarzan” at the Muny with his parents in 2014, he knew that one day he wanted to be up on the stage. Ever since he has been waiting for the year to arrive when he could try out for his first Muny audition. 

“There was this guy in ‘Tarzan’ that was really good and I said to my mom, ‘How do I do that?’ My mom said she didn’t know, and I said that I really wanted to do this and we needed to figure it out,” Gabe recalled. “Three years later, we went to the thing where they announce all of the shows for the year and we saw that ‘Newsies’ was going to be one of the shows. We had just seen it at the Fox. I told my mom I really wanted to be that kid (Les) but my mom and I thought there was no way. I was just hoping to make it into the ensemble.” 

“Newsies” was not Gabe’s first experience acting on stage. However, it was his first time performing for such a large audience. 

“It’s cool because I’m standing up in front of 11,000 people every night,” he said. “(On the last night of the show) I saw a girl in the front row wearing Newsies stuff and she was really into it.”

Gabe’s parents had their own worries about him performing for such a large audience for the first time. However, their doubts vanished once they saw how well he did despite it being such a new experience.

“He’s a natural at it I’m beginning to realize,” said Jeff Cytron. “He has such a calm demeanor before each show and it helps ease us as parents.”

Gabe’s parents also have been very thankful that he has gotten to be a part of such an incredible cast. Many of the older boys have performed on Broadway and have taken Gabe under their wing. 

“The true gift is that he’s surrounded by all these amazing, talented people who have been so wonderful to him. That’s the biggest gift, that he has been a part of this amazing cast. The cast has really taken him in. They’re just so nice,” Melissa said. 

In addition to acting, Gabe plays ice hockey and baseball, takes dance classes with Mark Krupinski, who helped him to get involved in the Muny, and “fidget spins.”

“I think it helps that he is involved in so many things because I’ve seen a lot of overlap in motivation and coordination,” said Melissa Cytron. “His passions for theater and sports are pretty equal. He seems to put his whole self into everything that he does.”