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Sam Simahk: ‘From the sticks’ to the stage

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Sam Simahk in “Sweeney Todd.”
Sam Simahk in “Sweeney Todd.”Mark S. Howard

Age: 28

Hometown: Ashburnham

Think of: Simahk has a physical resemblance to actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and emulates four-time Tony Award nominee Raúl Esparza as a musical-theater performer who puts physical storytelling ahead of vocal pyrotechnics.

What caught our eye: After earning his BFA in musical theater from Emerson College in 2010, he's been a regular presence on the Boston stage in recent years with prominent roles in "Big Fish" at SpeakEasy Stage Company, plus "Into the Woods," "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," and currently "Sondheim on Sondheim," all at Lyric Stage Company.

Lightbulb moment: Acting "was something I always felt I was better at than anything else, and I enjoyed doing it more than anything else. I figured I could give it a shot and see what happened."

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Biggest thrill: "Being in performances and bouncing that energy back and forth between the performer and the audience is amazing, but I love rehearsal. You're all trying to find this story together and figure out the best way to tell it."

Biggest surprise: "Honestly, it's always still a little surprising when I get cast in something or when I get a good review. It's a business where you need to have a certain amount of confidence in your own talents or otherwise you wouldn't stick it out, but at the same time it's always a little surprising, a little humbling."

Inspired by: "Growing up, I was really inspired by the voice acting on 'The Simpsons,' especially Hank Azaria. I was amazed that one person could do all these things with his voice. That really got me thinking about the different dialects and accent work that I could do, and I started playing around with accents and dialects in middle school. These are things that have impacted what I do onstage now."

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Aspires to: "I don't want to be famous. But I would love to be a regular, working actor. Years down the line I'm also thinking of going into education."

For good luck: "I have a big pile of little mementos, tiny little props that were going to be thrown away that I held onto that remind me of certain shows."

What people should know: "I am half-Asian — my dad's Thai. People might look at me and say 'He's part Asian; I wonder how that's affected his life?' But culturally, no matter what I'm just a kid from the sticks of Massachusetts who grew up in the woods catching nightcrawlers with his best friend and trying to sell them on the street. I think everybody has their own individual culture and the petri dish that they grow up in. No matter what, I'll always be this little hillbilly from the sticks."

Coming soon: Simahk performs in "Sondheim on Sondheim" at Lyric Stage through Feb. 21, after which he'll be traveling to Chicago in the spring for a role in a high-profile revival of a beloved musical (until the contract is signed, that's as much as he can disclose).

Links: www.samsimahk.com, www.lyricstage.com

Jeremy D. Goodwin

Jeremy D. Goodwin can be reached at jeremy@jeremydgoodwin.com.