Shaun Taylor-Corbett has been through a lot change in that past year. He set off to star as comic relief Sonny, one of the principal roles in the national tour of the hit musical In the Heights , where he’s appear since its Off-Broadway start in 2007. Now he’s back on Broadway as Sonny.
The coveted role was made famous by Tony nominee Robin De Jesus, and Taylor-Corbett recently caught up with TheImproper about his new star status in the award-wining musical.
The versatile actor loves Sonny, and feels right at home in his stylish sneakers.
“He is a wise cracker and a truth teller,” he says. “He’s cocky and arrogant with a good heart, but everybody humors him because it’s amusing to them and they love him.”
Taylor-Corbett says he plays him in a way that is very truthful to the character. “Every time I say something I really believe it.”
Because Taylor-Corbett has also learned many of the roles in In the Heights as an understudy, he is easily able to reflect on the challenge that being Sonny on Broadway creates.
“He is the hardest character of all that I have done in the show, because you have to put yourself out there on the line, and you have to commit to everything you do,” he says.
“I put all the parts of me that maybe I think are weird or quirky or strange into Sonny. I have to put them on display to the fullest level, and that’s when people believe me and they love that.”
Taylor-Corbett says he draws from his own life experience when establishing Sonny’s humor. “All the weird things for my whole life that people used to make fun of, I’ve put into Sonny,” he explains.
Taylor-Corbett recalls his childhood in Rockville Centre, New York fondly, but he also recalls being teased throughout his years at South Side Middle School.
“I looked different from most of my friends because I’m a mix of different cultures,” he says.
“People were either black or white. I was a mix of everything. Sometimes my height would come up, or I think for me it was about the fact that I was always nice,” he says laughing.
“I was always very respectful and loving, and I would always make sure everyone was comfortable and very respectful to the girls.”
His respectful nature might have been a source of contention when he was a teenager, but Taylor-Corbett got the last laugh. In March he proposed to his new wife Noemi, who was also an In the Heights performer.
They were married this Halloween in Chappaqua, NY, and incorporated In the Heights into the wedding.
“We had a nine-piece salsa band,” he says. “I’d say about twenty of our guests were In the Heights cast members.”
Taylor Corbett’s new brother-in-law, David Del Rio, has also performed with him on Broadway.
His In the Heights family is very close, but Taylor-Corbett always finds time to return to his roots in Rockville Centre where his mother still lives in his childhood home.
“I used to jump over the fence in front of my house and all of the kids that lived around there would too,” he remembers fondly.
Taylor-Corbett says he wasn’t a troublesome kid, but he did go through a rebellious phase.
This time in his life also marked his first questions about his Native American heritage.
“I remember I used to sit out on my roof and look up at the sky thinking, ‘What is this Native American thing all about?’ My mom took me to the reservation and introduced me to some great people, and it changed my mindset about who I was.”
Taylor-Corbett’s time at the reservation also inspired him to write a musical. He has about twelve songs completed.
“After my last interview with The Improper I went back to the reservation and stayed with the same wonderful people. We drove everywhere, and we talked about issues going on with the tribe,” he says.
“I have such a sense of pride for the kids and for the culture. I saw these little kids and I wanted to help them.”
Planning a wedding and starring opposite American Idol winner Jordin Sparks (whom the actor says offered to sing at his wedding!) in In the Heights has kept Taylor-Corbett busy, but he hopes to get back to working on his musical when things settle down a bit.
In the meantime, the diehard Yankee fan and closeted Grey’s Anatomy devotee is enjoying the spotlight on Broadway.
“It’s every actor’s biggest dream to be on Broadway, and to play a principal role. You get all this incredible attention from the New York community seeing you,” he says.
“There’s something about when you come onto that Broadway stage, you feel the responsibility to uphold the level and the quality that they’ve been upholding there for three years.”
Taylor-Corbett remembers being excited to see his picture finally make it to the front of the theater.
“It’s so hard to get there, it’s so hard to have it happen that when it does happen, you just have to cherish every moment.” But there is one thing he could do without: “I have one pet peeve about Sonny,” he says jokingly. “He’s got to wear that darn Mets hat!”
To visit Shaun Taylor-Corbett at In the Heights go to Ticketmaster.