Tag Archives: Sam Primack

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 Playbill.com 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

Once upon a theater camp

Aaron Zweiback performs in Green Eggs & Ham with The Phoenix Symphony on St. Patrick's Day

I was reminded while reading Mala Blomquist’s post this morning that spring break camps will soon be upon us, and was busy trolling for camps with an arts and culture twist when interrupted by a call from 12-year-old actor and ASA student Aaron Zweiback, whose theater teachers include Xanthia Walker.

I first met Zweiback last summer when my daughter Lizabeth, who now studies acting in NYC, was a teacher assistant with Childsplay Academy in Tempe. She’d invited me to see the final performance of a summer workshop with a “Hairspray” theme. Zweiback was one of several campers performing snippets of the musical for family and friends — and his Edna a la bathrobe was a hoot. He’s also done theater camps with Phoenix Theatre.

I ran into Zweiback after a recent Valley Youth Theatre performance of “Charlotte’s Web” — during which he rocked the rat role — and put fist to ear with the typical “call me” sign after chatting with his dad. In a rather spooky coincidence, I’d been wondering earlier this morning whether he’d ever have time to actually pick up a phone.

Today was the day, and the call couldn’t have been better timed. Turns out Zweiback is performing in several shows I’ll be seeing in coming days and weeks. I learned yesterday that I’ll need a little snip to a torn part of my left knee, but decided to postpone all things arthroscopy for another two weeks in order to keep my review calendar mostly intact.

Aaron Zweiback recently performed in Charlotte's Web at Valley Youth Theatre

So life looks like this for me and my knee: See Zweiback and others perform in “Gypsy” at Phoenix Theatre this weekend, limp my way through a trip to visit Lizabeth over spring break, then catch a returning flight in the wee hours that gets me home just in time to hit another Zweiback gig — The Phoenix Symphony performing “Green Eggs and Ham.” Then squeeze in the surgery thing (with a doc who took his kids to see a friend from the Valley perform in “Grease” on Broadway a few years ago). I’m told the wait won’t worsen what ails me.

Turns out “Green Eggs and Ham” includes all sorts of amazing folks from Valley stages. ASA teacher and renowned Valley actor Toby Yatso, with whom both Lizabeth and Zweiback have studied voice, is narrating the story. Zweiback does his “boy soprano” thing as “Sam I Am” and shared that the theatrical piece of the concert is being blocked, choreographed and directed by Bobb Cooper, VYT’s producing artistic director.

There’s another Sam in Zweiback’s life as well — an actor named Sam Primack whose little mittens I once guarded with care as backstage mom for a Greasepaint Youtheatre production of “Oliver.” He and Zweiback were in “A Christmas Story” at Phoenix Theatre earlier this season, and both are cast in Childsplay’s world premiere production of Dwayne Hartford’s “The Color of Stars.”

Sam Primack poses with a VYT fan after performing in Charlotte's Web

After Zweiback shared a bit about auditioning for all these shows, I invited him to write a guest blog with audition tips for young actors — and he graciously agreed. It takes a generous spirit to share one’s own “secrets to success” and Zweiback certainly has one. I fully expect to see him performing on Broadway stages one day, and hope he’ll also keep an eye out for opportunities to audition for roles in works by William Shakespeare where his intellect and gift for comedy would shine.

If the ticket fairies are working in my favor, I’ll be able to enjoy the work of another Valley-trained actor while in NYC next week. Nick Cartell, who has performed with VYT, Phoenix Theatre and other Arizona companies makes his Broadway debut this month in a revival of “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

Katie Czajkowksi and Aaron Zweiback after a Childsplay summer camp performance based on the musical Hairspray

I’m also looking forward to the Homestead Playhouse production of “Holes,” being performed at Copper Ridge School in Scottsdale March 28-30, because another young performer I met after the Childsplay “Hairspray” camp performance landed the warden role. Katie’s mom, Deb Czajkowski, recently got in touch to share the happy news — and her thoughts on the many benefits of theater for youth.

I hope those of you still wondering what your children or teens might enjoy doing over spring break will do a little theater camp legwork. One day, perhaps, you’ll get to turn to your child and share the old theater adage for good luck — “Break a leg!” Just try to keep your own body parts intact in the meantime…

– Lynn

Note: Click here to read Mala Blomquist’s post on spring break camps and here to learn about all sorts of summer camps. Find additional spring break camps at Voices Studio, Creative Stages Youth Theatre and Mesa Arts Center (if you’ve got one, send me the scoop at rakstagemom@gmail.com).

Coming up: Spring break NYC-style, Hometown boy makes Broadway debut