Durham, N.C. — When The Book of Mormon landed on Broadway in 2011, it made an immediate impact. The musical, written by the creators behind South Park (Trey Parker & Matt Stone), brought a sensibility of 21st century satire that was sorely missing from a form of entertainment that had become a safe choice for your grandparents to blindly buy tickets to during their semi-annual trips to New York.
A funny, yet scathing, indictment of youth missionaries spreading the gospel in war-torn Africa, Mormon-mania swept through the country, with tickets going for as much as four figures on the resale market and copies of the soundtrack flying off of store shelves. For those of us lacking the funds to trek to the Great White Way and see the original production, we knew that a touring version would hit our area soon enough.
What we may not have guessed was just how fast the tickets would go for the traveling productions as well. Since its first US tour in 2012, Mormon has been a constant sellout for theatres lucky enough to book it. The DPAC has recognized this, and has welcomed the current US tour to its stage, for area theater aficionados to journey back to the land of Uganda with these young Mormon missionaries once more.
Daxton Bloomquist is happy that the touring production is up and running as well. The young actor, and Kansas native, has been given his largest starring role to date as Elder McKinley, the district leader for Mormon missionaries in Uganda. I was able to catch Bloomquist on the phone for a few minutes during preparation for the DPAC performances, which run through Sunday. We discuss how his Midwestern community accepted his decision to pursue acting; how long it took him to finally make acting his “day job”; and how much more pressure there is in a starring role than in supporting.
Isaac Weeks: So the DPAC sent along your bio before our interview, and I couldn’t help but notice you are a Wichita State graduate. Are you from Kansas originally?
Daxton Bloomquist: Yeah, I’m originally from Kansas. Born there, grew up there, graduated from there, and then I moved to New York City.
IW: Let’s talk about going from Kansas to Broadway. When you first moved to New York, how many friends and family asked you, “Are you sure about this?”
DB: You know, I come from a very supportive community; I grew up in a small town. Everybody that I told about what I was going to do was very, very supportive. More of them just asked what was I going to do when I got there, or how I planned to make money, but I never had anyone say I couldn’t do this. I think that is the best thing for someone to hear, that you can do whatever you really want to do. I mean, I had to work really, really hard, but I never had anyone say, “You can’t do this.” I think it was very important to grow up in a community like that.
IW: How long after the move to New York was it before you got hired for something that actually paid the bills?
DB: It took me a year, which in the grand scheme of things is basically nothing, and I was very lucky and fortunate to book work that quickly. I had to take a lot of side jobs before that, which the last one was working as a “manny” for a family that I really enjoyed working for; that was the job that pretty much kept me sane while I tried to make it as an actor. Then I booked a cruise ship for Disney, and that kind of got the ball rolling. I really haven’t stopped working since then.
IW: Going from Broadway to the traveling tour of Book of Mormon, I think a lot of people have a misconception that when the show is performed in Durham that it will be almost like a local theatre production. Can you explain how important these touring productions of Broadway shows are to working actors?
DB: This is a union tour, and it’s a union production tour. That means that it is an exact replica of what is on Broadway. There are different tier productions, but we are the highest tier production that there is. The contract that I am on is the exact same as the Broadway contract. The people that they are hiring for this production are at the exact same level as the Broadway cast. It’s hard to explain, but we are at the top-notch of talent that a production like this can be at. Nothing is tiered down, nothing is paid less. Every detail you will see at our show is the same as the Broadway show.
IW: Since becoming a professional actor, what has been your most embarrassing moment onstage?
DB: Oh my goodness, there are too many. You know, I am a very free spirit and it is live theatre, so I never really get embarrassed by anything that happens. If there is one thing, it’s probably when I fall; when I run out on stage and just completely wipeout. I’ve done that before, and the audience just lets out a, “Whoa,” like you would hear at a track meet. I don’t know that that is the most embarrassing, but whatever happens, you have to laugh it off and keep going.
IW: As one of the stars of this production, how much more pressure is there in being an anchor for the show and not just a supporting cast member?
DB: I’m so lucky because I got to do two years on Broadway as one of the ensemble members. That was a lot of work as well. I found one thing that is different by being one of the lead characters in the show is the amount of focus. I like pressure, because growing up an athlete in Kansas I found that pressure gives me the energy I need. I think it’s the tad bit more focus that you know you have to have, that you are being watched and you know you can’t phone anything in, and there’s nowhere to hide. It’s a little more exhausting, but I find it way more awarding.