RAYTOWN, Mo. -- At high schools all over the metro area, students are putting on their spring theater shows, many of them very intricate and polished works. Later this spring the best of them will be honored in the annual Cappies and Blue Star awards for local high school theater. This week’s FOX 4 young achiever earned top honors last year and is following up with more sensational performances that should put him in the running for awards again this year.
In musical theater they are known as triple threats – performers who can act and sing and dance – and do them all very, very well. Senior Zach Kujath, this week’s FOX 4 Reaching 4 Excellence Young Achiever, is Raytown High School’s triple threat.
“It is so rare to have a young man in high school who can do all three of those things,” said Katie Kolster, Raytown High School Speech and Theater teacher. “We get guys who are really good and who are very talented but to have someone who excels at all three of those things, who’s in All-District Choir, who has taken studio dance since he was a little kid, who seeks out opportunities to better himself as an actor, that’s rare in a high school student.”
Zach’s triple threat talents, confidence and stellar stage presence were on display alongside co-star Hope Romero in 21 Chump Street , an entertaining, thought-provoking one-act hip hop musical that Raytown High’s repertory theater students put on earlier this month.
“I think it’s obvious that I’m having fun while I’m up there,” Zach said. “And I think that’s really important when you’re putting on a show is to make sure everyone knows you’re having fun.”
While rehearsing for this show, Zach also was prepping for a star turn in the all-school musical Hairspray in April. And last fall he had a major role in Oklahoma.
“I think that’s the kind of performer I’m always striving to be is somebody who has a pretty wide variety of talents and excels at different things,” Zach explained.
Zach really studies theater, too. He anchors Raytown High’s Cappie team that reviews other high school shows and writes reviews of them. And Zach is smart. He got a 35 on his A-C-T exam, one point shy of perfect.
“That’s the cherry on the top,” Kolster said. “because smart actors are smart people. To be able to analyze and critique and dive deep into a character takes some brains. And so, that’s just amazing to me that he’s able to do so so effortlessly and want to do that.”
It was his performance as Jesus in Raytown High’s production of the ambitious musical "Godspell," he said, that proved to be pivotal in his impressive success and rapid rise in the theater arts.
“Before 'Godspell,' I had never auditioned for a high school show,” said Zach.
He was a sophomore then and his trajectory has been straight up ever since. He lives and breathes theater now, often working several shows at once, even as a leader on the crew. Zach was the sound designer for The Odd Couple at Raytown High at the same time he was in endless rehearsals for 21 Chump Street and Hairspray.
“I think it makes me a better performer understanding exactly how those things work,” Zach said.
His attraction to theater is about much more than the glow of the spotlight.
“I’m always surrounded by a group of cast mates and a director who, who make the process even more enjoyable for me, where we build a community and a family every time we put on a show together.”
That powers this star.
Zach won two Cappie awards last year, an acting nod for his portrayal of Reverend Hale in the drama The Crucible and another as best male critic for his review writing. His next big role is as the male heartthrob in the musical Hairspray at Raytown High April 14th through the 17th. Zach also performs regularly in the school’s top vocal music group, Camerata. And he just earned an exemplary “I” rating at district music contest and will now compete again at the state music festival in late April.
FOX 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism. Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Wednesday on FOX 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on Fox 4 News at 8 a.m. and noon.