'HSM' Disney+ Star Kate Reinders Relives Teen Performances She'd Once Hoped Wouldn't See Light of Day

Kate Reinders, who stars in "High School Musical The Musical: The Series," once joked she was glad videos of her performances were not viewable since they lived on VHS. Inside Edition Digital has changed that.

Long before Kate Reinders starred as drama teacher Miss Jenn in “High School Musical The Musical: The Series,” she was basking in her own high school musical glory. Like the kids on the Disney+ show, who will put on the musical “Beauty and the Beast” this season, Reinders relished her time on the stage, too. 

In her sophomore, junior and senior years of high school in Michigan, Reinders had the leading role in all three musicals: Reno Sweeney in “Anything Goes,” Marion Paroo in “The Music Man” and Maria in “The Sound of Music.” 

Reinders once joked she was glad videos of her performances were not viewable since they lived on VHS. “Please nobody ever needs to see that,” she said in 2019 to Broadway.com. “I hope it doesn’t exist...Nobody has a VHS player anymore. We are safe.”

Since Inside Edition Digital has access to a VHS player, our team was able to digitize the performances that Reinders’ parents, Lois and Evan, voluntarily picked out and mailed to Inside Edition Digital. 

“I thought I was safe,” Reinders said over Zoom admitting she hasn’t watched the tapes in over a decade. Her parents joined in as well who haven't been able to see their daughter in person since Thanksgiving 2019. “Clearly, I have lost my mind during the pandemic and have poor judgment now. Everybody really needs a laugh right now. So, you're welcome.”

For any successful celebrity, the idea of putting novice performances out there for the everyone to see can be daunting and sometimes downright embarrassing. But once they sit down to watch their old clips as part of Inside Edition’s “Then/Now” series, they soon realize that their younger self was actually pretty talented. Especially when their parents chime in with praise.  

“It’s not terrible!” Reinders, a former Glinda in “Wicked” on Broadway, quips listening to her beautiful 16-year-old soprano voice in “The Music Man.” 

"You can see Glinda,” I reply, alluding to the role that years later would be added to her resume. 

“‘Wicked’ didn't even exist then. I didn't even know what my dreams were,” Reinders responded. She didn’t want to finish watching to hear the big, dramatic final note of the song. 

She pointed to her brother, joking that he was “stealing the show” while she was downstage, belting “Anything Goes” and tap dancing at the same time. She was starring as “Reno Sweeney,” a role made famous by Patti LuPone, one of Reinders’ idols. “I was channeling my Patti LuPone even though I don't think anybody would ever put me in a Patti LuPone category. Am I right? You would put me in a Kristin Chenoweth category or a Bernadette Peters category. But in high school, I can be Patti LuPone because in high school musical theater, you can be anything.”

At one point while watching her younger self perform, Reinders’ phone rang. On the line was her best friend, Sarah Litzsinger. “This is my Inside Edition interview,” she tells Litzsinger over FaceTime, who holds the title of being Broadway's longest running Belle in “Beauty and the Beast” and who once performed with LuPone in a production of “Oliver.” 

“We just watched the video of my high school performance when I was Reno Sweeney, when I was this big,” she said, holding up her pinky finger, “and had no boobs. But it all comes full circle. All roads lead to Patti LuPone.”

Reinders’ parents had the biggest grins rewatching their daughter shine on stage as a teen. Lois and Evan said it was so much fun for them to revisit these precious memories, once thought to be locked in the vault. They knew their daughter would be a star one day. “She had it,” Evan said. “We knew she was very exceptional from an early age and musically and dramatically.” 

After high school, Reinders attended the University of Michigan for one semester. She “had a moment of self doubt” and wasn’t sure at the time if she wanted to be an actress. So she moved to New York City to test the waters. She happened to book the second job she auditioned for: the first national tour of “The Sound of Music” with Richard Chamberlin and played a nun and a party guest while understudying two of the Von Trapp children. Reinders made her Broadway debut in “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” in 2001 and went on to appear in seven other shows. 

This week, season two of “High School Musical The Musical: The Series” premieres on Disney+. Reinders shares a big storyline with Derek Hough, who guest stars as Miss Jenn’s former boyfriend and competing school’s drama teacher, which puts on a production of “The Little Mermaid.” “I can't speak for Derek, but I can speak for myself when I say I was not acting,” she said of their chemistry while working together. 

As important as her craft is to Reinders is being a source of mentorship to the young actors who play her students. She's candid about the mistakes she says she's made over the years, but is confident each rising star, like the likes of Olivia Rodrigo and Joshua Bassett, will find their own way. “I'll tell them anything they want to know, but I have a lot of faith they are all off to a great start,” she said. 

Lois and Evan watch "HSMTMTS," too. “We're not the target audience, but we're very pleased with how it turned out,” said Evan. “And you can watch it on TV as opposed to fly to New York, to see her in a Broadway show.

Will she sing this season? “I always say yes when they ask me,” she replied. “The question is, though, ‘Do I dance?’" I replied, “Do you tap dance to ‘Anything Goes?’”

“Do you think they would put that on TV?” she hit back with. “Only you would!”

Looking back at where Reinders came from, she tears up, after watching her teenage self to offer this message of hope. 

“I'm proud of myself. I am. When I really think about it: I have been dreaming about this my whole life," she said. "So seriously, if kids watch our show and they want to do musical theater, I am showing you that you can. You absolutely can.”

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