Waiting at home during the pandemic stoked Sam Primack’s love for the theater.
âIt made me want to do it more,â he explains. “It made me more passionate and I wanted to do a ‘remake’ on a character I thought I knew so well.”
Returning to the nationally touring production of âDear Evan Hansen,â the 20-year-old juggles multiple roles in the Tony-winning show. As well as being Evan Hansen’s “replacement” (meaning he appears when Stephen Christopher Anthony is not on stage), he is also the understudy of Connor Murphy and Jared Kleinman – three very different characters.
Because Primack rarely knows when he might have to play one of the roles, he has portrayed each of them and regularly rehearses with other understudies.
The real thing? Perform a song that the three of us share. âThere are different harmony parts in singing and different dance parts,â he says.
Acting on the show before graduating from high school, the Arizona native discovered that there was a lot to work on. “There was a lot on my brainâ¦ but now I can just focus on that.” For the 18 months leading up to the return of Broadway shows, “I had sort of waited in my room, dreaming of what it would be like to come back and do the show.”
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Reality: âIt’s amazing,â he says. Audiences were excited about âDEHâ during their first few weeks on the road and were quick to applaud what Primack and the company did.
Interestingly, âDEHâ was scheduled to open at the Orpheum Theater in Omaha in March 2020 when the pandemic forced theaters to close. It’s back – fingers crossed – for a race between December 28 and January 2.
Although the show was Primack’s first big professional job, he played Pugsley in a touring production of “The Addams Family” when he was 12. âIt kind of sparked my love even more,â he says.
On the “Evan” tour, he gets the chance to explore cities, try new foods, and learn about the industry. âIt’s kind of my schooling,â says Primack. During the pandemic, he took classes at a community college to pass the time “and keep my mind busy.”
As for the pursuit of a degree, it is not sure whether it is in the cards. “Going to a different city every week was the craziest learning experience.”
While in high school, Primack was chosen to enter the Jimmy Awards competition, an intense boot camp experience for the country’s top high school actors. He was one of the finalists but did not see the New York workshop as a competition. âIf you do, you won’t get the most out of the week. Yes, there will be a winner at the end, but the real prize is doing the most amazing things and meeting some really talented people.
Because the Jimmy Awards bring in active actors, directors and choreographers to teach students, nominees have access to industry people. Tara Rubin, who was among the judges in 2017 (the year of Primack), is the casting director for “Dear Evan Hansen”.
âAfter two years of auditioning, I got it,â he says of the show. âThis is where we all want to end upâ¦ and these are our peers for the next 40 to 50 years in the industry. “
During the airing of “Dear Evan Hansen,” Primack discovered that he was performing with as little as an hour to prepare. âI always have to be prepared to be in this emotional place,â he says. âI find that emotion comes when I’m most relaxed. I’m most present when I’m really listening, when I’m a little bit in the moment. This is when you know the aqueduct starts to come in.
On the days he waits backstage, he and the other liners rehearse, play video games, and work on projects to keep their minds busy.
What about life after “Evan Hansen”? âIt’s been hard the last few weeks to think about it because we’re at the start (of the series),â Primack said. “I’m hoping to do the show for at least a year, and then I’d like to do something new, feel a little bit like mine (a role) and make it my own.”