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Second San Diegan Aiming For Broadway

Poway teen Chase Fischer is a contestant in the PBS documentary "Broadway or Bust."
Poway teen Chase Fischer is a contestant in the PBS documentary "Broadway or Bust."

“If you do something that you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

You might think these are the words of someone who is sharing their wisdom at the brink of retirement. Or, maybe they’re from someone who’s been there, done that.

You’d be wrong. These are the words of Chase Fischer, a teen from Poway, who is at the beginning of his career. For Fischer, who is just starting his senior year at the Coronado School of the Arts, these are words he lives by every day, and by so doing, he is well on his way to living his dream.

Last spring, Fischer became one of two San Diego area students to win the top prize at the 2012 Globe Honors, a competition presented by the Old Globe. (You can read about the other winning student, here.) As a result, Fischer got the opportunity to compete in the National High School Musical Theater Awards in New York, doing what he does best. He’d be singing, dancing and acting—on Broadway, and in front of a camera, to boot!

It’s a dream come true for Fischer, who, as early as two, began to show an interest in performing. Yet, it wasn’t until he was eight, when he auditioned and won his first leading role in a musical at his church, that his love for theater was ignited.

The rigorous week that Fischer, along with 59 other students from across the country spent in New York rehearsing—learning the opening and closing song and dance routines, working with a voice coach—is documented in a new PBS, three-part series, “Broadway or Bust.” These students, including Nicolette Burton, who also hails from our region, had already won top honors in their hometowns. Together, they represented the best and brightest new talent in musical theater.

Surely, with such stiff competition, vying for the grand prize would be brutal and intense. But, according to Fischer, that wasn’t the case at all. “It’s hard to put into words what an incredible experience it was,” reflects Fischer. “It was so nice to work with other kids my age. We all got to live our dream.”

Now, I’ve seen enough reality-type shows to know that people competing for the same goal, are often wary and mistrusting of each other. They talk behind each others backs, and are often known to throw darts with their eyes, among other things. That must have been the case here, right?

“Well, it might sound lame,” admits Fischer, “But my favorite thing was all the time we spent rehearsing the numbers together. I really, really enjoyed listening to everyone sing. They were so inspiring and incredibly talented. It was fun watching it all come together.”

Fischer genuinely enjoyed being around the other kids and the sense of camaraderie they had together. After a long, demanding day, you’d think they’d get tired of being together, and would want some alone time to decompress. Yet, Fischer assures me that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

“The way we dealt with stress was to go back to our rooms, have fun, hang out, goof off. By being surrounded by the other students, it helped relieve the pressure. There never really was a competitive feel to the whole thing. Everyone was extremely nice and rooting for each other.”

Seriously? No pain, tantrums or crying jags?

“There was a vibe and everyone could sense it,” Fischer asserts. “We wanted the best for each other and were overjoyed for everyone who won. It wasn’t a competition so much as team building. Sure lots of people cried but those were tears of happiness.”

It was Fischer’s mom that helped spark his interest in theater, but he credits both of his parents for helping him stay focused.

“My parents are incredibly supportive. They know it’s a hard life and want the best for me. They’ll go along with whatever my dreams are, and they’ll follow me there.”

Fischer, who feels fortunate to have grown up in San Diego, because of the great theater available here, takes performing seriously. “Performing is extremely important to me,” he explains. “There’s something about entertaining other people that makes me feel good about myself, and the laughter and applause is worth the hard work put into the performance. It gives me a sense of accomplishment and makes me feel proud of myself, just like getting an A+ in your hardest class in school.”

When it comes to role models, Fischer looks no farther than his friends. “One person I really look up to is Hunter Schwarz, who was actually competing with me at the Old Globe. I saw him in a show and was totally blown away by this talent, and realized I wanted to do this as a career by watching him perform. Now he’s one of my best friends.”

So, what was it like being under the watchful eye of the camera, during the filming of “Broadway or Bust?”

“It was a cool experience, though at first, I was kind of nervous about being around the cameras,” Fischer recalls. “Once we got to New York, the cameras (seemingly) disappeared and I got comfortable and natural. They (the producers) didn’t want us to notice them and it worked.”

Fischer may very well have what it takes to make it to Broadway one day, but in the meantime, he still enjoys being a kid. After returning from New York, he spent the rest of his summer doing what just about every teen in San Diego likes to do—hanging out with friends, including his girlfriend who is a varsity volleyball player, and going to the beach.

He’s currently getting ready for his next gig. On the day we spoke, he had just learned that he got the lead role in the Coronado School of the Arts fall production, “Singing in the Rain.”

So, did Fischer win the grand prize—the Jimmy Award? Well, you’ll need to tune in to find out.

“Broadway or Bust” airs Sunday at 8:00 p.m.