Volume 12, Number 2, 2003

Give this grad a Hi-5

Shaun Taylor-Corbett, AS '01, was a Broadway baby in the truest sense--jetting around the country while still an infant with his choreographer/director mother, Lynne Taylor-Corbett.

"I grew up in theatres," Taylor-Corbett says. The only child of the Tony-nominated choreographer/director and musician/A&R rep Mike Corbett, Shaun grew up exposed to, and relaxed around, show biz folk.

"I remember going to the set of the movie Footloose, which my mom choreographed when I was a little kid," he says. "I still remember Kevin Bacon talking to me... it was very cool at that age to be around that."

While his mother couldn't interest him in dance as a youngster--"I totally rebelled against it," Taylor-Corbett recalls--he did take a liking to drama. Growing up on Long Island, he landed the starring role of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof in his middle-school production.

"I remember the audience laughing. They laughed because I was funny as that character, but also because it was funny to see this little kid playing an old Jewish man," he recalls. "I was totally exhilarated by it."

Still, Taylor-Corbett didn't foresee a career in show business for himself. Back then--and even during much of his time at the University of Delaware--he was figuring on a career as a diplomat. "I wanted to travel the world, and I wanted to work directly with people, perhaps in mediation, somewhere I could make a difference."

One professor in particular, Mark J. Miller, was hugely influential. "He just took me under his wing, gave me confidence as a student and ignited my passion for the subject of international relations," Taylor-Corbett, who also was vice president of UD's World Peace Club during his sophomore year, says.

"Because of my understanding of what people go through when they migrate to another country and how they have to assimilate to that culture, I felt a huge need to work with people," he says.

One of Taylor-Corbett's greatest joys at Delaware was as a member of the all-male a capella group, the Y Chromes (whose name, not-too-coincidentally, is a play on its all-male lineup). He tried out for the group as a freshman and stayed with the Y Chromes all four years.

"I'll never forget when I was inducted into the group. I was asleep at 11:30 p.m., and one of the guys came and pulled me out of bed and took me outside. All the Y Chromes were standing there outside and they sang [Paul Simon's] "Cecilia"--which is one of our signature songs--to welcome me," he says. "It was the most beautiful sound, echoing out on the dorms. That was the start of this great, four-year experience."

The Y Chromes, who specialize in pop tunes, gave Taylor-Corbett the confidence to try out for the campus production of Pippin his senior year. He landed the lead role, reveled in the experience and decided to focus his postgraduate energy into becoming an actor.

The summer he graduated from college, Taylor-Corbett traveled to London, where he studied Shakespeare at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.

"It was very intense, but it made Shakespeare tangible to me," he says. "I love Shakespeare. If I could make a living doing just that, I would. It's so much food for an actor." Since returning to the states to live in Manhattan, Taylor-Corbett has, in fact, done Shakespeare in various theatre groups. Most recently, he played Romeo in a comedy version of Romeo & Juliet at The Looking Glass Theatre in New York.

But, it's been more than just the Bard that has captured this young actor's attention. He landed a one-time part as a delivery boy on the TV soap opera All My Children and enjoyed a two-week stint traveling with Theatreworks USA's production of Bravo Amelia Bedelia.

Having Lynne Taylor-Corbett as his mother has been helpful for his career, he concedes. She was choreographer/director for the Broadway show Swing!, choreographer for the Broadway show Titanic as well as for the 1984 movie Footloose. But, as he puts it, "my mom helps me to the door, but I then have to walk through it on my own and prove myself."

Last summer, New York casting director Carol Hanzel was scouting for a new 30-minute children's show, Hi-5, on the TLC/Discovery Channel and thought Taylor-Corbett might be perfect for it. Would he like to try out for a part?

Taylor-Corbett auditioned and landed one of the two men's parts in the five-person ensemble show. Hi-5 originated in Australia, where Taylor-Corbett and his fellow actor/singers taped 45 episodes beginning last fall. (He also learned to surf while Down Under.)

The show, which debuted Feb. 24 on The Learning Channel, features different educational themes each week, brought to youngsters by the five energetic, hip young adults, who--as the Los Angeles Times said--"come off like the best teen baby-sitters you could imagine."

There's singing, skits, dancing and interacting with puppets--all the while teaching kids "about the world around them," Taylor-Corbett says.

His segments focus on "Shapes and Space." He often uses different shaped objects to build unusual things--like making a fort out of chairs and a sheet--to teach youngsters about shapes and spatial awareness. This playful teaching also involves games and then talking about the different shapes used in them. He also sings three songs in each show and usually dances at least once in each segment.

"We're geared toward children ages 2 to 7," Taylor-Corbett explains. "We're a fun, educational show that teaches without their realizing that they're being taught."

As a performer, Hi-5 is the "dream of a lifetime," he says.

In addition to being able to "sing, dance, act and be in the spotlight," Hi-5 enables Taylor-Corbett to achieve another of his long-time goals--making a direct impact on people's lives.

"This doesn't feel like work to me at all and it fulfills that need to reach people, in this case, young kids," he says, adding that his three younger half-sisters are all fans of the show. "Kids identify with someone who they think actually cares about them--we all do."

Taylor-Corbett, according to Hi-5 executive producer Helena Harris, "shines on-screen."

"Like the other Hi-5 cast members, (he) makes performing for pre-schoolers look effortless," Harris said. "Shaun is really dedicated and enthusiastic. He's the sort of person you find in a corner somewhere, going over his scripts. Shaun's talents--his singing, dancing and ability to engage so well with the audience--were put to the test in making the show and he always comes through. He's a true professional."

There are plans for the Hi-5 cast to go on tour around the country later in the year. In the meantime, Taylor-Corbett is busy with his nonstop acting and dance lessons--the latter makes his mom quite happy.

"She's so excited that I'm dancing," he says. "Better late than never!"

Taylor-Corbett says his days at the University of Delaware are never far from his memories. "The Y Chromes, the classes, the activities--it was my home for four years and it prepared me for the world."

--Nicole Pensiero