From pirate to Pugsley

Bobb Cooper (L) and Sam Primack perform at VYT

I thought Bobb Cooper, producing artistic director for Valley Youth Theatre in Phoenix, might bust a button on his flashy red pirate coat while making remarks at a recent VYT performance of “How I Became a Pirate.”

Instead, he flashed a fabulous set of silver pirate teeth, proud to share that one of the show’s cast members would be leaving Valley stages for a time to perform in a touring production of “The Addams Family: A New Musical Comedy.”

Sam Primack, a 6th grader at Cocopah Middle School in Scottsdale who performed the role of Jeremy Jacob in VYT’s most recent show, tells me he landed the role of Pugsley after sending in an audition video.

Sam Primack (R) with his family

He’d seen the call for videos posted on in January, and decided to give it a shot. After a series of callbacks in New York, Primack landed the role of Pugsley, the Addams family son.

Primack got the news from his mom, Allyson Primack, who’d taken the long-awaited call. “I fell to the ground,” he recalls. “I was so happy.” Primack tells me he’ll head to NYC in January to start rehearsals. “We’re touring 44 cities in six months,” he says. Primack will miss the second semester of this school year, but take online classes while he tours.

“There are two of us,” Primack explains, “so we don’t have to do a show every day.” New Jersey 5th grader Jeremy Todd Shinder, who’s also cast in the Broadway production of “A Christmas Story,” performs the role of Pugsley too.

Sam Primack (center) performs in The Boyfriend at Stagedoor Manor

Primack has performed, since the age of four, in more than two dozen productions on Valley stages — with theater companies that include Childsplay, Desert Stages Theatre, Greasepaint Youtheatre, Phoenix Theatre and VYT.

He’s spent two summers at Stagedoor Manor, which mom Allyson describes as “a land of Sams” where her son feels perfectly at thome — and studies voice here in the Valley with Kelli James of The Broadway Advantage.

From L: Lauren, Aidan and Sam Primack

Primack lives in Paradise Valley with mom Allyson and dad Craig. One’s a part-time attorney, the other a physician. Sam, now 11, is big brother to 9-year-old Lauren and 4-year-old Aidan. Primack’s mom will go along for most of the tour, and other relatives will cover when she’s gone.

“We travel a lot,” says Primack — who notes that his family has already been to California, Illinois, Michigan, Colorado and New York. “Seeing shows is my favorite thing to do in New York,” says Primack. He’s seen “Lion King,” “Wicked,” “Shrek,” “Billy Elliot,” “Once,” “Newsies,” “Book of Mormon” and more.

Sam Primack’s official headshot

“I’ve wanted to do this as a career ever since I saw my first show,” recalls Primack. That show was “Grease,” starring Max Crumm — another actor who got his start with VYT and other Valley theaters. “I didn’t know him,” says Primack, “but I did Desert Stages when he was there.”

Allyson Primack remembers Sam watching Crumm perform on NBC’s “Grease: You’re the One that I Want” during 2007. Her son was nearly six years old at the time. “When Max was on the show,” recalls Primack, “Sam got really into it.” She jokingly told him they’d go see the show if Max got the role of Danny, figuring it would never happen.

It’s a feeling she might have to get used to, now that Sam dreams of attending college in NYC and forging his own career in musical theater.

— Lynn

Note: Though Primack’s tour won’t hit Arizona, Valley audiences can see “The Addams Family: The Broadway Musical” at ASU Gammage Dec. 11-16. Click here to read an interview with Pugsley from the Broadway tour coming to Tempe in December.

Coming up: Thespian crossing

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