Early life and education
He read music, French, and German at Magdalene College, Cambridge and piano at Guildhall School of Music. Early on, he worked as a freelance pianist and coach, giving frequent recitals and tours and doing stints as a repetiteur at opera houses in Brussels and Ankara.
Sams came to prominence as a director with a revival of Michael Frayn's farce Noises Off, which he mounted in London's Royal National Theatre in 2000. This production then transferred to the West End, and then to Brooks Atkinson Theatre on Broadway in 2001.
Among his other directing credits are the West End musicals Spend Spend Spend (1999), the story of Viv Nicholson, who squandered a fortune won in the British lottery, and a stage adaptation of the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (2002) for both of which he received Laurence Olivier Award nominations; the 2002 Broadway production Amour, which he translated from the original French libretto by Didier Van Cauwelaert. His efforts earned him two Tony Award and two Drama Desk Award nominations. His directing credits also include Jason Carr and Gary Yershon's musical of The Water Babies at the Chichester Festival Theatre in 2003. He directed the Jason Robert Brown Broadway musical13 at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, on Broadway. He has also written and directed the stage adaptation of The Good Life based on the BBC TV sitcom due to start touring the UK from October 2021.
Sams' many translations include plays by Botho Strauß; Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro, The Magic Flute, Puccini's La Boheme, and Wagner's The Ring Cycle for ENO; The Merry Widow for Covent Garden; Les Parents terribles, The Miser and Mary Stuart for the Royal National Theatre; The Threepenny Opera for the Donmar Warehouse; and What's in a Name? for the Birmingham Repertory Theatre.
Sams' composing credits include the BBC film of Jane Austen's Persuasion, for which he won a BAFTA award for Best Music. Other scores include The Mother (2003) and Enduring Love (2004). He also directed 13 the Musical, which consisted of known stars like Ariana Grande, Graham Phillips, and Caitlin Gann.
Sams has one child with actress Maria Friedman.
- "New York Times Noises Off Review". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 28 June 2013. Retrieved 18 December 2006.
- "Playbill Celebrity Buzz:Schedule of Upcoming Broadway Shows". Archived from the original on 16 May 2008. Retrieved 22 May 2008.