A love of singing drives Jersey boy’s ‘Journey Home’


Russell Fischer has come a long way from the handmade cardboard set that he built and performed on as a child in his Port Reading backyard.

Formerly an understudy from the lead role of Frankie Valli in the Broadway sensation “Jersey Boys,” Fischer will celebrate his recent homecoming with an Oct. 26 performance titled “The Journey Home” at the Union County Performing Arts Center, Rahway.

For Fischer, his journey as a performer began at an early age.

“I started singing when I was 3, and I started in community theater when I was 5,” he said. “So once I was able to go outside without any supervision, I started building sets out of cardboard and I employed my tool shed out in my backyard as my little theater.”

Signing with his first manager at just 8 years old, Fischer auditioned frequently in New York City. With the support of his parents, the young actor would juggle both an education and a professional career, auditioning almost every day and traveling frequently for performances.

Some of his earlier jobs include “The Music Man” at Chautauqua Opera; “The Sound of Music” at the Palace in Myrtle Beach, S.C.; “Monkey: Journey to the West” at the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, S.C.; and the second national tour of “Big: the Musical.”

Fischer attended the Westminster Choir College at Rider University, where he was involved in the new musical theater program as one of its supporting pioneers.

“We really had the opportunity to co-author this program and sort of design the curriculum based upon what we needed, because it was such a new, unique degree,” he said.

After graduating in 2008, he tried out for the lead role as Valli in “Jersey Boys,” which became his most memorable audition.

The process, called “Frankie Camp,” involved a rigorous, weeklong, intensive rehearsal for prospective candidates. Each day encompassed a different focus, from scene work to choreography. Then there was the final callback in front of a panel of 20 professionals, including prominent Tony Award-winning director Des McAnuff, the creative team and casting directors.

“It’s the kind of work I studied to do. Being able to apply it in real-life applications was absolutely thrilling,” he said.

He landed the role of Joey and the understudy for the role of Frankie Valli.

Performing in the production for six years — including an exhilarating performance at the Tony Awards — Fischer made the decision to leave the production to continue the growth and expansion of his career.

Today, the 28-year-old actor is taking the leap and revisiting his cabaret roots, focusing on writing and fully developing his artistic creativity.

As his own journey continues, Fischer shapes the central theme of “The Journey Home” around a concept of home that pushes the boundaries beyond a physical structure.

“As clichéd as that is, home is where the heart is. But, furthermore, home is where your happiness is. Whatever makes you happy, whatever your passion is, whatever motivates you — that is your metaphoric home,” he said.

The show’s musical director, Joshua Stephen Kartes, shares a special creative bond with Fischer, who refers to Kartes as “nothing short of a genius and musical prodigy.”

“It’s almost as though he knows what I’m going to ask of him before I even ask for it,” he said.

In reference to his inspiration, the actor says he draws it from everywhere, including his fellow artists.

Fischer will be offering a Nov. 23 master class through Westminster Choir College, where he plans to emphasize the importance of play-pretend to his students, pushing their curiosity and encouraging them to ask questions in all facets of life.

Tickets for “The Journey Home” are $30 general admission and $18 with a student ID at the box office. The Union County Performing Arts Center’s Hamilton Stage is located at 360 Hamilton St., Rahway.

For more information, call 732-499- 8226 or visit www.ucpac.org.