My parents and sister moved to Arizona from Michigan in 1993. I refused to leave Michigan, it was my senior year of college, and I had already been accepted to Wayne State University in Detroit for law school. So, I lived in Michigan without my family for 3 years of law school and 1 year of law practice. When things weren’t going the way I thought my life in MI would go, I heeded to my family’s request to join them in AZ to give it a try. I had a bad attitude about the whole thing and decided I’d be back to MI in a few months.
During that first summer, my parents decided to take me to see a show because theatre always cheered me up. Seeing good theatre in Detroit always made me happy. They took me to see West Side Story in Phoenix, and when I got to the theatre, I realized it was a youth theatre production. The theatre was called Valley Youth Theatre. I was already irritated about living in AZ, now this. The show began, and it took my breath away from the very start. The actors were all in their teens, and they were incredible. The dancing and singing were all top notch, as good as I had seen at The Fisher or The Fox Theatre in Detroit. When we left, my mom said to all of the actors “I’ll see you on Broadway one day!” And I had to agree.
When Sam was about 4, I took him to Valley Youth Theatre’s production of Beauty and the Beast. Again, the most incredible performances I had seen, and at this point I had started taking Sam to see lots of local youth theatre. There is a lot of incredible youth theatre to be a part of and to see in AZ, but VYT always had one of the best reputations as a place where young stars are born. Jordin Sparks, Chelsea Staub and Emma Stone all say they owe their careers to VYT.
When Sam was 7, and had about 10 shows under his belt at other theatres, he mustered up the courage to audition at VYT. It was for a production of Seussical. He received a callback, and it was so exciting. Ultimately, he did not get a part in that show, and he went and did a few other theatres before deciding to audition again for VYT when he was 8 for a production of “Peter Pan.”
Bobb Cooper has been the resident artistic director of VYT for 15 years. Auditioning in front of him is a wonderful experience. He and the wonderful staff, including music director Mark Freary, make the kids feel so comfortable. Sam received a callback for Peter Pan, and was in the finals when they called him backstage. Sam was signed up to go to a local overnight summer camp, and would miss several rehearsals if cast in the show. Bobb asked Sam if he would possibly decide to not do summer camp because it was too hard to cast him with this many missed dates. He yelled out “I didn’t even want to go to that camp! My mom made me sign up! Yes! I want to do this show more than anything!!” So, Sam was later cast as Tootles the Lost Boy and I got my deposit back for camp.
Since that time, Sam has done numerous shows at VYT, and each time he is cast is just as exciting as the first time. Sam and Bobb have developed a wonderful relationship over the years as mentor and student and Sam has learned so much from him. Lauren is obsessed with Bobb’s wife Karol who is a fantastic costume designer and designs all of the award winning costumes for VYT shows (and who also designs dresses for Chelsea and Emma and other notables to attend award shows like the Golden Globes). Aidan also loves hanging with Karol in the Costume Shop, and recently helped by seam ripping some costumes from previous shows for tailoring. One day this fall Aidan came home from school and said, “I was a good boy at school today. Can I go find Karol and do more seam ripping with her?”
When Sam was cast in Addams Family, we called Bobb with the news, at the same time we called our parents and relatives. So, it was only natural that Bobb offered to take a week of being Sam’s guardian during the tour.
Bobb and Sam are having the time of their lives in NYC. They have been seeing shows together, walking around Times Square, meeting up with old friends and enjoying all that NY has to offer, in a way that die hard true theatre lovers do. They are two peas in a pod and it is just such a wonderful relationship.
I am here in AZ with my family and it is wonderful to be home and see my organized house. A person could get used to having someone organize their shoes, do their grocery shopping, do the laundry and constantly entertain their children all the time!! Carlotta is so easy to be around and we are all learning a lot from her.
Today I also got to see Lauren’s cheerleading team come in 2nd place out of 6 teams in their division at a competition. And Aidan built a lego. Life goes on and it is coming full circle for me in AZ.
The theatre, that gave me faith in Arizona culture when I was 25, that gave Sam faith in himself about his acting ability, is giving our family a precious week together to spend with each other, all through their fearless leader Bobb Cooper. So, thank you, Bobb, for calling me crying today when you watched Sam run through the show, and thank you for telling me how happy it makes you to see Sam’s dreams come true. Thank you for everything you have given our family.
When Sam and I were in NY last May for his Addams Family callback, we had time to see one Broadway show, so we saw Jesus Christ Superstar. Looking through the program, I spotted a cast member with a familiar name: Nick Cartell, from Phoenix. Reading his bio, I realized why the name was familiar. He was in a VYT show. West Side Story. From 1997. He played Tony. My mom was right.