Fresh upon his return to Northern California, I caught up with Sacramento-native James Snyder. He landed a career defining role opposite Idina Menzel in Broadway’s hit musical If/Then, which opened on Broadway March 30, 2014 and launched its national tour in Denver this past October. The show is currently playing at the SHN Orpheum in San Francisco, where it will run until December 6.
It’s a question we all ask ourselves. What if I’d gone to that school? Married that man? Taken the job? Hopped on a motorcycle and traveled across the country? It’s also the driving force behind If/Then, starring Tony winner Idina Menzel (of Rent, Wicked and “Frozen” acclaim).
How does If/Then fit into your journey as an actor?
For me it’s a very personal show and very close to my heart. It wasn’t written for me, but may as well have been. The first time I heard the music my son was six weeks old and sleeping next to me. When I went to audition, I read for the part of a new father and by the end of the audition I was crying and they were crying and I told them, “You guys nailed it. I just had a baby, and this is exactly it.”
Do you have a favorite line your character delivers?
In the song “Hey Kid,” the first time Josh holds the baby he says, “I put you in my arms and I realize in an instant that I’ve known you all along.” It encapsulates what it’s like having a kid. It’s such a surreal experience.
How did playing this role change you?
My character is married to a very complex woman (Liz played by Menzel). Calm is one of his default modes, though it’s not necessarily one of mine. To be honest, playing the role has helpe me to be a better husband. I’ll think, “If I can just have this conversation with my wife the way that Josh would…” I feel I’ve gained a lot of patience.
What is the most awkward moment you’ve had working on this production?
The entire first two weeks of rehearsal were awkward. Rent was the first musical I ever bought and all of a sudden I was in a room with these people I respect so much (Michael Greif, Anthony Rapp, Idina Menzel). High school me was like, “Are we really here?”
Which city are you most looking forward to visiting during the tour?
San Francisco. I’m from Sacramento, born in San Jose and I have a lot of family out here. I have 70 people coming to see the show who couldn’t see it on Broadway, including my grandma.
How does that influence the way you feel about your SF performances?
I will be nice and nervous when my family and friends come. There’s something a little more nerve-wracking about performing for family, which is funny because they’ll love it no matter what. I really want to knock it out of park for them, though.
Is there anywhere you’re making sure you visit during your down time?
My wife’s never been to Napa, so that’s a must. Scoma’s on the Wharf is where our family goes out. I’ll definitely get some chowder in a bread bowl and an Anchor Steam beer. SF has very nostalgic food for me.
What has surprised you most about your experience so far?
Where I’ve ended up. I don’t know if I quite understood the significance of the role I would get to play in this show and on Broadway. I’ve learned that you can plan all you want and the universe may just put you where you need to be.
SHN of San Francisco presents the Broadway touring production of If/Then now through Sunday, Dec. 6 at SHN Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market St., San Francisco.
Wanna see the show? Save up to 15% on tickets to If/Then when you use the promo code UPOUT.
[Featured Image: Courtesy of James Snyder]