Tyler Schorsch opened Wednesday as Danny Zuko in Palatine High School’s production of Grease, and it literally brings him full circle. As a young child, his mother taught him to sing Greased Lightnin’, using a hairbrush as his microphone and the coffee table as his stage.

Tyler, center, with the Greasers

This weekend, he plays the title role at Palatine, opposite junior Kaitlyn Stoeckel as Sandy, and with a company of more than 70 students in the cast, tech crew and orchestra. Shows continue at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Palatine High School.

“I love the show and all its wonderful characters,” Tyler says. “Danny is a product of his time. He’s the type of guy who’s tough and stern and wants to be cool around his friends. But he’s different and has this sweet and sincere side with Sandy.”

As excited as he is to play Danny, Tyler admits the moment is bittersweet. As a senior, he has had a lead role every year at Palatine, including his freshman year during the pandemic, in an online production.

A highlight came last year, when he auditioned for and made the ensemble of the All-State production of Shrek. However, when one of the principals became ill, Tyler was handpicked out of the entire cast to step up and play Papa Ogre. The musical was performed at the Illinois High School Theatre Festival at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana.

“What a thrill to be pulled up to play that role,” Tyler says. “It was a blast, getting to do all the make-up and costuming for the part, and just performing on stage at the Krannert Center.”

After his start on the coffee table at home, Tyler performed as a child at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre — “I was the best Toto they ever had!” — before his mother enrolled him in the John Roberts Powers, a modeling and performing academy in Itasca. It led to several modeling parts as well as roles in commercials and student films.

He also has performed in the community, appearing last year as Zacky Price in the St. James Theatre Productions’ presentation of Big Fish. 

All of these credits and stage experience led Judy Klingner, the longtime director at Fremd High School and for the last 10 years at Palatine, to cast him in the show’s signature role.

“Tyler has the confidence necessary to bring Danny Zuko to life,” Klingner says. “His Danny is more sincere and more age-appropriate then John Travolta’s version.

The company of Grease, including cast, tech and pit

“It’s easy to forget that the characters in the musical are in high school because the actors in the movie were all in their 20s and 30s,” she adds. “In our version, although we aren’t allowed to change the dialogue due to copyright issues, we are playing up the inexperience and youth of the Greasers.”

Look for Tyler to take his final bow on the Palatine stage this weekend, but it won’t be his last rodeo. He hopes to major in musical theater performance in college and has been auditioning at several in-state schools.

“Grease has always been an iconic show, so the chance to play Danny Zuko is an amazing opportunity,” Tyler says. “I’m just so grateful.”

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