Dallas — Daxton Bloomquist is set to take the stage at the AT&T Performing Arts Center's Winspear Opera House with the cast of Tony Award-winning musical Book of Mormon. But it’s a bit of a farewell tour for him this holiday season, with just a month left in his time with the production.
Bloomquist spent the last four years on Broadway and on tour, starting first as a swing in the ensemble and working his way up to playing Elder McKinley, who leads the missionaries on the first-act song “Turn It Off.” Now, he’s a seasoned veteran of the show and ready to tackle his next big challenge back in New York.
TheaterJones sat down with him to talk about his experience with the show, what it means to play McKinley, how he gives his performance something new every week, and what’s on the horizon.
Editor's note: Psssst: Don't forget that there will be an Industry Night for this tour, on Tuesday, Dec. 27. See the bottom of this interview for more information.
TheaterJones: You’ve been involved with the show almost since the very beginning. That has been quite the journey.
Daxton Bloomquist: It’ll be four years in January with the show, so that’s kind of cool for me. I started on Broadway for two years, and then I was on the tour for two years. I’m really lucky, because on Broadway I got to play every Mormon on stage except Elder McKinley and the two leads. I always think that’s really funny.
What was it like making the jump from the ensemble to playing a lead role?
I thought it was going to be a lot easier than it was, but it actually was kind of difficult in terms of being a lead in the show, to have a lot more lines and to be where people are always watching you. That made it a little bit different and more exhausting, having to take care of my voice in a different kind of way.
But at the end of the day, in terms of being comfortable on stage…I was very comfortable in the ensemble, but to be in front all the time, to own it if I mess up, and be confident in the choices I’m making—that’s really brought out a whole new type of person that I am and type of actor that I am as well.
Since you’ve been involved in Book of Mormon for so long, is it difficult to keep the show fresh for yourself after four years?
I get asked that a lot! Honestly, I have had so much change with what I’ve been doing. To keep things new and fresh, I asked an older, more experienced actor one time what he does, and he said that if he’s feeling like he’s phoning it in, he looks at someone new that day.
So I kind of took that to heart and I try to do something a little bit new every day. Not necessarily that the audience would know, but just something for myself, like I look at a different part of the set. There’s always something new I’m discovering, and I think if I allow myself to find something new every day that keeps it fresh for me. And on tour every city has a different type of audience feel, and that helps a lot as well.
The creative team is really awesome for letting me have my own take on the character, and I bring some of Dax to it, and I think that’s what is great about our cast. Our creative and associate directors have really allowed us to each have our sense of self.
You’re not going to see cookie cutters of anyone who was previously in a role—the show is the same, but every one of our principals brings some of them to their characters, and I think that’s what makes it a very strong show. And that’s just important to acting in general.
Has it been different for you to play this role given the political climate, especially with certain current stances on LGBT rights and treatment?
I haven’t gotten any nuance from it so far, but I will say it does make me prouder to play a closeted, gay Mormon, 100 percent. I am very proud to stand on that stage every day and tell the story of a closeted gay kid. You couldn’t believe how many letters I’ve gotten from young teens and adults about how much my character has touched them, how much the show has touched them.
It’s really cool because you wouldn’t think The Book of Mormon would do that, but the characters are written so well. I don’t tell anybody this, but I’m not Elder McKinley, [and] I have gotten to a place with my character that people genuinely care about him. That helps me keep things fresh too, the connection I can make with people. If I can make one connection with one person, that’s really all that matters.
You are ending your run with the tour on Jan. 29, so what’s next for you? What are you planning for the future?
I’m moving back to New York City, and I’m going to audition. I’d love to do another Broadway show right off the bat, but you know, if that means I have to do a couple regional shows before that…I’m really just content at the moment with where my life is going, and I’m okay with not knowing. I mean, talk to me in a couple of weeks and that might be a little different! But I still feel very, very strongly that I’ve made the right decision.
That is a big change after four years. What led to you making the decision?
It took me a long time not to say that I wanted to keep going. I had the opportunity to, and it was all my choice. It’s very bittersweet. It took me about two months to make the final decision.
But you know, I had to be okay with not knowing what’s next, and that was my biggest issue. I think what I needed to know was that I didn’t know what was next, and that’s scary. And that’s okay, it’s okay to be scared. I didn’t go into this business to be safe—that’s not how I do my job, I don't play my role safely. I want to live on the edge a little bit, and I want to make choices and career choices. Someone told me that when you’re ready, you know. And I just woke up one morning and thought, ‘I’m ready.’
It’s hard, I’m from Kansas and a very structured life. And you don’t have structure as an actor. You know that going into it, but you don’t know how to experience it until you’re out of school. I’ve had structure for four years with the same show. I’ve been very, very lucky to do everything I’ve done with it. But you have to kind of take that leap of faith—I’m very spiritual in terms of my faith. I teach a lot, and if I’m going to tell kids to trust what you’re doing, to believe in yourself, then I have to do that too.
How hard is it going to be to walk away from this experience?
I spent most of my 20s doing this show, I got to be with most of the original cast. Every cast member I’ve worked with all hold a very dear place in my heart. I don't know how I’m going to handle the last show, emotionally, but I’m sure there will be lots of tears.
I feel like I’ve reached a lot of people as an actor, as Elder McKinley. I think it’s time to let someone else get a crack at the character. He’s such a fun character and I’ve learned so much from him, and now someone else can learn from him, too.
» Tickets are selling fast for the special Industry Night, presented by ATTPAC, TheaterJones and the Dallas Arts District. It's Tuesday, Dec. 27, and the fun begins at 6:30 p.m., an hour before showtime, with a special area for Industry Night pass holders. Your discounted ticket comes with:
- Best available seat
- Private pre-show and intermission social
- Post-show party with the cast
- Chances to win signed swag, tickets and more
- An evening with fellow North Texas performers, directors, managers, and friends