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Wesley Chapel ‘American Idol’ hopeful Zach D’Onofrio advances to Hollywood

The ABC reboot of the show premiered Sunday.
Zach D’Onofrio, 16, of Wesley Chapel, performs on the season premiere of ABC’s reboot of American Idol. Photo: ABC/Eric Liebowitz.
Zach D’Onofrio, 16, of Wesley Chapel, performs on the season premiere of ABC’s reboot of American Idol. Photo: ABC/Eric Liebowitz.
Published Mar. 12, 2018

Zach D'Onofrio came bearing socks. He left with a golden ticket to Hollywood.

The Wesley Chapel 17-year-old charmed his way past the judges during Sunday's premiere of the ABC reboot of American Idol, crooning Frank Sinatra's The Way You Look Tonight. He'll move on to the Hollywood rounds airing later this spring.

"I was smiling throughout the whole thing," Zach said in an interview. "The lyrics, I know them by heart. So I was just living the moment. I don't even remember everything. It was a crazy experience."

The Wiregrass Ranch high schooler got more than five minutes of airtime on the premiere, including a tour of his Wesley Chapel home and a segment where he chatted about his sock-collecting hobby with Ryan Seacrest. Then he moved on to judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan, who all got socks of their own.

Though he speaks with a slightly pinched croak, he sings with a stronger, more bellowing tenor. The judges were bowled over by his easy charm.

"You put the 'you' in unique!" said Perry, who raced over to slow-dance with Zach as he sang. Even while that was happening — and Bryan and Richie dancing together over by the judges' table — Zach kept his cool. Bryan even asked for an encore.

"Harry Potter walks in and slays it," Bryan said. " This show will teach you, do not judge any human being on this planet."

Bryan was the only judge who had some minor criticism, encouraging Zach to swing around with the beat, like Sinatra did.

"That's all you need to do," Bryan said, "and America is going to freak."

— Jay Cridlin