The LDS Church’s production of Savior of the World is the gift that keeps on living for Dallyn Vail Bayles.
In 2000, when he first heard that the new Conference Center in Salt Lake City would include a small theater, he felt a tug on his costumed soul. He knew this stage would help tell his story. And with wondering awe, this wise man saw his relationships and his acting career be born under starry theater skies, including one star brighter than the rest. Dallyn has portrayed Joseph (the carpentering father of baby Jesus) multiple times in this retelling of the original Christmas script, all while becoming a father of five in his off-stage, off-Broadway life.
In fact, during their courtship Dallyn and Rachel would drive to Savior of the World rehearsals together — always listening to the same song on their drive from Utah County: “Bass Gloria” recorded by the Boston Pops. The couple took a week off during rehearsals to marry on Oct. 25, 2000. (On the Saturday night of this October photo shoot, the two celebrated their anniversary on the way to the Conference Center where their love took them off script temporarily.)
And while Dallyn’s tenor voice has toured with Broadway productions of Les Misérables and The Phantom of the Opera, Dallyn’s intermissions have always brought him back to Utah, where he spent youthful Christmases visiting Temple Square from his native Green River.
Story of My Wife
Dallyn has theater to thank for his life and his wife. When he was performing in Children of Eden as a student at BYU, Rachel attended with a common friend and asked that person to set her up on a blind date with Dallyn.
“As soon as she walked through the door, I thought, ‘Wow! She is so beautiful. There’s something different about her,’” Dallyn remembers. Their first date was to the same address in north Orem where they now live. At the time, Rachel’s parents occupied the home, and this kid-themed date included macaroni and cheese, watching Prince of Egypt and reading children’s books.
Now the two read children’s stories to their own five children, ages 4 to 15.
Playing the Role of Father
Although their lives “have been crazy from the beginning,” Dallyn has made it a point to not just say the lines of a father, but to be a real-life, in-character father and husband to his home cast. During his early-career tour with Les Mis, the Bayles had only one baby, so they bought a minivan and mom and daughter traveled the country alongside Dallyn and his stage crew for 14 months.
“We had a blast and lived out of a suitcase that entire time,” Rachel says.
During the next Broadway tour — this time with Phantom — the family was growing and dad was only home 1-2 days per month. Technology became part of the daily routine. He would call home for family prayer every morning and evening. Skype hosted family home evening. One of the hardest things was getting to church on Sunday.
“We would do eight shows a week, with two on Saturday and two on Sunday,” he says. “Weekends are exhausting, and it took a lot of gumption to get up and take a taxi or public transportation to church on Sunday morning. I came to value taking the sacrament so much during this time as a way to focus and remember the covenants I had made. I wanted to hear the promise of always having the spirit to be with me. It was essential to my survival spiritually.”
Dallyn took a 2-3 month hiatus from the tour to be home for his son’s birth. As the due date neared (but didn’t seem imminent), he traveled from New York to Utah to sing at BYU Women’s Conference and audition for a church film. As soon as he landed, Dallyn learned that Rachel’s water had broken. Rather than jump on a flight and be unavailable during the delivery, Dallyn stayed at his grandma’s house and was on the phone while their fourth baby was born.
“The first time I saw Nathan was when the doctor texted me a photo,” Dallyn says. “I told that story at Women’s Conference and showed the photo on my phone.” (Insert audience head tilt and sigh.)
This out-of-home experience once again had Dallyn rethinking his career and desiring to be with family more. He soon brought the Bayles brood back to Utah where he was hired as a full-time seminary teacher from 2011-2013 with students at Springville Junior High, East High School and Timpview.
A plot twist during this seminary scene got Dallyn thinking about preparing himself to teach higher education, which meant a graduate degree in musical theater. When he and Rachel received the same answer to prayer, the family took the familiar route back across the country for him to pursue an MFA at the Boston Conservatory.
“We went to Boston for two years and experienced the worst winter they’d ever had,” Dallyn says.
But it was a perfect storm of family support and education. For the first time, Dallyn and Rachel began to recognize the special needs of some of their children, and the programs in Boston helped put the family on track to acknowledging and addressing them.
As Dallyn neared graduation in 2015, the foreshadowing was pointing toward New York — back to their well-loved LDS ward, back to Broadway.
“As a performer, I was looking to fulfill my professional goals,” he says. “Boston Conservatory is a strong program, and my connections were excellent to springboard me back onto the New York stages. The only question was when to move — not if.”
“I’m flattered BYU has entrusted me with this project. It’s artistically satisfying to help other actors tell stories and create scenes. It’s been a steep learning curve but a wonderful journey.” — Dallyn Bayles, director of BYU’s production of “Into the Woods”
After a Labor Day session at the Boston LDS Temple, both Dallyn and Rachel knew their New York chapter wasn’t going to come in chronological order.
So on November 9, 2015, the family packed up Dallyn’s MFA degree and his Broadway dreams and moved back to Orem, into the home of their first date (and later chosen mate).
“We’ve never really lived in a house, and this was where my wife and kids needed to be,” he says. “Rachel loves gardening and having her own flowers, and she has put her green thumb to use.”
Dallyn’s livelihood the past two years has included concerts, musical theater opportunities (which are somewhat complicated with his Union contract), teaching music and theater at BYU, and instructing seminary students part-time at Lehi High School.
Into the Woulds
Dallyn’s career took a director’s seat when he became assistant director of Savior of the World in 2016. This fall, he is guest directing Into the Woods at BYU, which opens Nov. 17 in the Pardoe Theatre.
“I’m flattered BYU has entrusted me with this project,” Dallyn says. “It’s artistically satisfying to help other actors tell stories and create scenes. It’s been a steep learning curve but a wonderful journey. It’s a whole lot more work to create a show from the ground up, and as an actor you don’t always appreciate all that happens during the pre-production of a show. A director creates the vision and brings together sets, costumes, lights, sounds, effects, actors … all to uplift and inspire an audience.”
All the Whirl is a Stage
The life of a performer has taken Dallyn backstage, center stage, on the road and on his knees.
“I feel like I have a moral responsibility to tell stories and be part of productions that teach, at least in some form, the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Dallyn says. “There are some shows that are just for entertainment, and that’s OK. But on some level, I really have to look at it and ask what is this saying? What is it teaching? Do I want to be that kind of character?”
Dallyn has had to kiss many women under the lights — “and I’m grateful that Rachel is OK with that, although we could talk about that for days,” he laughs.
The Mormon is in the Room
Although parts of Act I, II and III of Dallyn’s career have been LDS-related, he’s had multiple intermissions of Broadway tours and other stage productions when his religion has been the non-common denominator.
“It’s a stigma in both a good and bad way,” he says. “I was viewed as the Mormon, and I’m grateful. At times people started talking about X-rated topics, and sometimes I would speak up and say, ‘Hey guys, the Mormon is in the room.’”
His castmates would often tell him to close his ears so they could finish stories.
“We learned to accept and even laugh at the fact that we don’t have the same morals,” Dallyn says. “The truth of it is that I’m part of a religion with a strict code of conduct, and I’m willing to accept that. But these are good people and I want to be with them, although sometimes the places they go aren’t places I should be.”
Occasionally as a production ended, Dallyn’s performing company would be given nice wines, for example, as thank-yous for successful runs. Dallyn was gifted non-alcoholic items instead, and he displays some of them in the living room of his Orem home, which reminds him of his stage prowess but also the importance of staying in character as an LDS performer.
“I was viewed as the Mormon, and I’m grateful. At times people started talking about X-rated topics, and sometimes I would speak up and say, ‘Hey guys, the Mormon is in the room.’” — Dallyn Bayles, actor
Separation of Church and Stage
Although Dallyn did play the Phantom and Raoul on the Broadway tour of Phantom, he could’ve been the angel of music much earlier. His opportunities to be part of the first Nauvoo pageant coincided with the Phantom director’s interest in bringing Dallyn onto the cast.
“That was a tough choice, and I don’t remember the Lord telling me to do one or the other. I felt like he was asking me what I wanted to do,” Dallyn says. “We ended up telling the Phantom director that I was going to choose this church production in the middle of nowhere, and he thought I was crazy. And I thought it was crazy, too.”
Dallyn and Rachel played Joseph and Emma, a cherished duet of time where Rachel got to watch Dallyn from a perspective other than the orchestra seats.
Dallyn found out later that there was a “black note” on his theater file with the New York casting agency for staying in Nauvoo.
“It wasn’t until we moved out east and started to hit open auditions that people realized maybe I was interested and committed again,” he says.
“God allows us to struggle and make choices on our own,” he says. “When we have righteous desires, we do our best to make choices and move forward. But he doesn’t protect us from all problems and failures — even those are important.”
While Dallyn’s career has a broad range, one gift he’d still love to unwrap is portraying Jean Valjean in Les Misérables.
“I have sung ‘Bring Him Home’ five trillion times, but I’ve never played that role,” Dallyn says. “I’ve been too young and immature for the part, but I could probably portray him now.”
As a serious-minded performer, Dallyn has truly never been known as “immature.” But during his first days in New York, he acted the part of wannabe performer and worked three jobs — administrative assistant at a law firm, usher at a Broadway musical in the Amsterdam Theater, and intern at a talent agency.
While Dallyn and Rachel have made decisions together and with help from above, it doesn’t mean Dallyn sometimes wonders “what might have been.”
“In wonderful moments of weakness, I think about what I might have given up by the choices we’ve made,” he says. “I still have professional goals and projects I’d love to be part of.”
But the Orem couple is at peace with their path —even though Rachel thought she was marrying a pre-med major and had to work through her concerns about her new husband setting roles as goals.
“I was more worried about the morality than the money,” she says. “But when I prayed about whether he should switch his focus to theater, I got a stronger answer than when I asked if I should marry him. I knew our lives would be crazy, but I felt that we would be provided for in some way. And we have. It’s been a winding path, but the Lord has been kind.”
They will always be grateful that the path started out with giant musical steps forward.
“After he had his big break with Les Mis, we thought we would be set,” she says. “A lot of things dropped in our lap at first. I wish we had known we would have years of famine. Or maybe I don’t wish that.”
“I’ve killed my career so many times it’s ridiculous,” Dallyn says, of his many “acts” of professional theater, Nauvoo pageant, going back to school, teaching seminary, and moving across the country four times.
“I’ve done professional theater, and then I’ve worked with the church — either as an actor or literally as a seminary teacher. And then more professional acting,” he says. “I see balance in my life, which is a blessing because there’s no question that being a professional actor can be very draining spiritually. It comes with the job. It comes with the atmosphere. In some ways, this winding path hasn’t helped my career very much at all, but it’s helped my spiritual life a lot.”
As Dallyn and Rachel look back at his two decades of curtain calls, they see a pattern they didn’t set out to create. And while Dallyn doesn’t know — and never has — what next year will bring, one thing is certain.
“I’ve always felt that the talents we’ve been given aren’t ours — they are given to us by God, and I’ve had to rely on him so much,” Dallyn says. “I look across our lives with all of the things we’ve been a part of — including Savior of the World for many Christmases. These are the kinds of stories that change lives and bring people closer to Christ — the baby born in Bethlehem and the truths he later taught. I thrill at being able to add my voice to that.”
For Kurt Bestor’s 30th year of Christmas performances, the pianist/composer surveyed his fans for their top favorite vocal performers from his past three decades. Dallyn’s voice hit a high note, and Kurt selected him as the soloist for Saturday, December 16 at 8 p.m. in the Eccles Theater in Salt Lake City. Learn more at kurtbestor.com.