The grit behind the music and the mirror

For Nikki Snelson, playing Cassie in the new tour of “A Chorus Line” is an achievement in more ways than one.

“It’s special … my mom can really see how all those dance lessons paid off,” says the Broadway thespian, recently on the phone from Los Angeles. Beginning this week, she’ll be in San Francisco, where the show runs through July 27 at the Curran Theatre in a Best of Broadway presentation.

Getting the part in the Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning show, she says, was one of the most intense and incredible experiences of her career. It was a two-and-a-half month process, ending with an audition in which she was alone onstage performing the number “The Music and the Mirror” at the theater where the iconic musical originated.

The new tour isn’t her first brush with the hit show by James Kirkwood, Nicholas Dante, Marvin Hamlisch and Edward Kleban, which premiered in 1975 and enjoyed a record-breaking 15-year run on Broadway, which it still holds.

A 2006 revival, which opened in San Francisco in a pre-Broadway run, introduced the heartfelt show about dancers trying out for a spot in the chorus of a big-time musical, to a new generation.

At that point, Snelson was up for the role of the glamour-challenged Val, who sings “Dance: Ten; Looks: Three,” but didn’t get it.

Instead, she went on to play villainess Brooke Wyndam in “Legally Blonde” on Broadway. (That show also previewed in The City before hitting Broadway.)

Later, she was asked to try out again for a new tour of “A Chorus Line,” and was about to say no — until she learned she was wanted for Cassie, which she calls “the quintessential dancer’s role.”

Too young to have experienced the original production, she says she remembers watching the movie on TV, and being particularly interested in the Cassie character. The theater veteran — she debuted professionally at 16 — has found the role tough, particularly the dancing.

“It looks so easy, but it’s shocking how taxing it is all the time,” she says. She and her fellow cast members push themselves, but also try to take time to rest.

Meanwhile, the resident of New York City’s East Village is pleased to come back to the Bay Area. She’s been here a few times. In addition to her stint in “Legally Blonde,” she appeared in two TheatreWorks productions in Mountain View, “Kept” and “Smokey Joe’s Café,” where she had “a blast.”

She says, “I love The City, and outside of it too, like Muir Woods. And Fisherman’s Wharf and the Haight … all the touristy things.”

lkatz@sfexaminer.com

IF YOU GO

A Chorus Line

Where: Curran Theatre, 445 Geary St., San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; 2 p.m. Wednesdays, Saturdays-Sundays; closes July 27

Tickets: $25 to $99

Contact: (415) 512-7770 or www.ticketmaster.com

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