Buffalo native Gabe Amato was 15 years old when he broke his leg. He had to quit his beloved sport of track, and he could no longer perform the lead role in the high school show.
He was devastated.
At one of his lowest points in his young life, Amato felt as though his life was over. Stuck in a wheelchair for three months and on crutches for another three, Amato’s mom explained to him that “things unfortunately happen for reasons we don’t know.” With the support system of his friends and family, he slowly came to terms with what happened and looked for ways to move forward.
He knew he would never run track again, but theater was still an option.
“The two things that got me into theater was breaking my leg, having one dream most definitely close, and that dream being track. I was just never going to be the same athlete that I was before I broke my leg but closing that door and seeing that there’s something I can still do, something that I’m still good at, something that makes me feel something more than what life provides,” Amato said.
Most of Amato’s family supported his decision, but someone he looked to for approval most was his grandfather, who was not too keen on the idea. He felt that Amato would not be able to sustain himself with a job in theater and that it was not practical.
“But then when my grandfather was dying, one of the last things he said to me was, ‘You can do whatever you want to do and you’re going to do it, and you’re going to do it right and I believe in you.’” Amato said. “That’s probably the one thing that keeps me going, and I haven’t stopped since.”
Now he’s 21 and he’s performing with the Broadway national tour in the production of Cinderella.
A Buffalo native, Amato started his acting career in seventh grade with the namesake lead role in “Willy Wonka,” at Maryvale Middle School. Throughout high school he performed in “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” “Godspell,” and “Aida.” Additionally, he has been in “Chicago,” “Ragtime,” “Gift of the Magi,” “Peter Pan,” and “Guys and Dolls.”
He is currently taking a year off his studies at Long Island University Post and will complete his senior year in the fall. Friend and classmate, Tanner Bolin, describes Amato as a talented performer and an empathetic person. Bolin is from Montana and does not have the opportunity to travel home often so Amato will welcome him into his home in Buffalo for the holidays. He says Amato is inclusive both when it comes to including new friends and when working with other theater majors.
“He’s someone who loves to enjoy the process of whatever show he’s in, he’s someone who can really combine his work and play into one thing and overall I think it really adds so much to the process with him. He very much is someone who wants to incorporate everyone and use his own talents to bring other people’s talents out of them,” Bolin said
Now, in Cinderella he is an ensemble dancer and the understudy for Jean Michel and the Prince. Gabe was able to perform as Jean Michel on Feb. 5 in London, Ontario, and this was a big night for him. His mom, Antoinette Amato, was proud to be in the audience for this moment, watching him do what he loves most.
“You know it’s kind of unbelievable to believe that’s your kid up there,” Antoinette Amato said. “He was so happy last night after the show, he was beyond happy. He was so proud of himself and excited because it was a different feeling for him to be up there and singing to a full arena.”
At only 21 years old, Amato is one of the youngest cast members with the youngest one being 20. The cast has been able to encapture the themes of kindness and female empowerment. Amato says the show is a beautiful classic story. It opened in Alaska on Oct. 24 and since then they have traveled both the East and West coasts and to the south. Now, the last place they have to hit is the middle of the U.S.
“Cinderella has been a time and a half. It was a huge jump from regional theater in Buffalo and Albany and then just going to school and being a college student and then jumping into a full time professional gig…is something that I don’t really think anyone is ready for until you just do it,” Amato said. “We were in Alaska for two weeks and that might have been the longest two weeks of my entire life. For our preview night we actually had 1200 people of underprivileged citizens throughout Alaska come to the show. It still to this day is one of my favorite audiences. They were so receptive and they were just so happy to be there…it was so nice to see that this is what I was going to do around the country.”
But touring on broadway isn’t all just smiles and pleasant performances. The performers put in a ton of hard work demanding a lot effort between the traveling and the intensity of the performances.
“The hardest part is one night stays because you drive into a show, do the show then leave the next morning. After a week or two of that schedule you start feeling it in your body. Other than that seeing this beautiful country through bus and plane has been amazing,” Amato said.
As any mom would, Antoinette worries about her son. She has seen him perform about eight times so far and has plans for three more trips.
“It’s grueling. Sometimes they perform three times in a day and the show is two hours and 20 minutes. And there’s so much behind the scenes that people don’t see. He sends me pictures like ‘Mom I’m losing my hair,’” Antoinette said.
Amato says his true inspiration is his mom.
“Especially for someone who doesn’t like theater, she comes to everything I do. She tells me if I’m good or not. She’ll be like ‘you weren’t being your full self out there, what’s wrong with you?’” Amato said. “I think it’s just that she challenges me. She doesn’t settle for anything less which I think you should always have someone around you to do that.”
Antoinette Amato said he inspires her right back.
“When I see him, he’s his most happiest when he’s up on stage and when he’s doing things that he loves, and that inspires me to do more things of what I love,” Antoinette Amato said.
She said when she was at the performance in Arizona, a young boy in a wheelchair who does theater asked if he could meet her son after the show.
“So his parents brought him out and he was screaming as soon as Gabe started walking out. He was yelling ‘Gabe, Gabriel, Gabriel!’ And Gabe just bent down and his eyes were full of tears and he was just blown away by how much this little kid wanted to meet him. They exchanged emails and now they’re pen pals…It was very touching from a mom’s point of few to see the compassion he had for this little boy,” Antoinette Amato said.
Amato can serve as an inspiration for all.
“I basically have no dance training other than my college experience and whatever I did in high school and you always just figure out what you got to do. So my thing is for anyone that wants to do anything in life just keep finding ways to do it and then it will somehow work out in your favor as long as you keep pushing,” Amato said.
What’s next for this star in the making? The broadway tour of Cinderella will end on July 8, in Tampa Florida. Next year, Amato will finish his last year of college at Long Island University Post. Then he will begin to look into opportunities in LA or Chicago. Casting directors better get ready for the talent that will be sweeping their way in the form of Gabriel Amato.