Lake Zurich High grad named a finalist for musical theater award

Zachary Keller realized his passion for theater was more than just a hobby while taking his final bow of the Illinois All-State show of “Rent,” in which he played Roger.

With tears streaming down his face, he decided musical theater was going to be his career path.

The 18-year-old, who graduated last spring from Lake Zurich High School, was a finalist for the Illinois High School Musical Theatre Award for his lead performance as Frank Abagnale, Jr. in his high school's rendition of “Catch Me If You Can.” Although he didn't win top honors, the experience was more than enough for him.

“Acting is something you get better and better every time you do it,” Keller said. “To me, it's less about the training and more about getting to do it. So (IHSMTA) was just another outlet for me to keep doing it.”

Presented by Broadway in Chicago, IHSMTA chose 12 boys and 12 girls who had played lead roles in their high schools' musicals for a day of singing, acting and dancing at the Broadway Playhouse. On June 6, the 24 finalists performed a “Sound of Music” medley with Kerstin Anderson, who plays Maria in the national tour of “Sound of Music,” and auditioned in front of Chicago professionals for a spot at the National High School Musical Theatre Awards in New York.

Keller will attend Ball State University in the fall and will major in musical theater, but that wasn't always the case. When applying to colleges, he had first chosen marketing as his major.

“It was somewhat disappointing when he chose marketing,” Keller's mother, Mary Keller, said. “I think for anybody, no matter what your passion is, if you don't have a passion for that, you're not going to be successful.”

What Keller loves most about musical theater is “it's the most diverse, global community.”

“It includes any race, any sexuality, any gender, so that's the coolest thing,” he said. “Getting to meet these types of people and really understand people that are different than me.”

Keller's mother believes this is especially important in light of the Orlando nightclub shooting.

“I think if people knew other people of other backgrounds and preferences, they would be more accepting,” she said.

When Zach Keller isn't performing in shows of his own, he volunteers at Cricket Theatre and helps direct and coach children. He teaches them that the key to acting is confidence.

“You can be playing a character that isn't confident, but you still have to instill confidence in them that they can play that character,” he said.

Mary Beth Euker, one of the directors and founders of Cricket Theatre, directed Keller in his first musical, Seussical Jr. at Seth Pain Elementary School and said there is no doubt he has a talent for musical theater.

“I think he is someone that likes to tell a story, and he likes performing,” Euker said. She sees Keller making it to Broadway and even directing shows of his own one day.

Both Keller and his parents think Lake Zurich Unit District 95 and the availability of theater programs in the area contributed to his growth and success on the stage.

“I definitely am thankful to Ms. (Mary Beth) Euker who set up Cricket Theatre and Seth Pain music program,” Keller said. “I'm thankful for her and all the people in the district that are supportive.”

Lake Zurich High School senior Zack Keller was named a finalist for the Illinois High School Musical Theatre Award this spring. Courtesy of Zack Keller
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.