J*Co’s ‘Peter Pan’ thrills adults and kids

Eva Trieger

Eva Trieger

LA JOLLA, California (Press Release) – The curtain was not rising and the audience grew increasingly restless as the delay persisted. What was the hold up, you ask? It wasn’t that Peter Pan couldn’t find his shadow, nor that Nana needed to be walked, not even that Captain Hook had mislaid his prosthetic. No, the reason for the tardy curtain, was that every single seat in the JCC’s David and Dorothea Garfield Theatre was sold out. Five hundred eager playgoers were clogging the hallway, as they attempted to take their seats in the thrumming auditorium.

Finally, at 8:20 pm, Joey Landwehr appeared and welcomed the crush of theater enthusiasts and shared some truly impressive news about the JCC and its impact on the community outside of this building. Just last week, the Artistic Director shared, Peter Pan captivated a full house of children from San Diego’s underserved neighborhoods. 130 of these children had recently had the benefit of cochlear implants, and for the first time in their lives, heard and interacted with a live theater troupe. Landwehr described the utter joy and impact this performance had on both audience and actors. The outreach program, “Random Acts of Culture,” invited children from Rady’s Children’s Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House to share this beautiful extravaganza with the cast and crew.

Landwehr is celebrating his ninth year with the J*Company, and arrived by way of the San Diego Performing Arts League after a stint on Broadway. Each season Joey delights in challenging his actors and himself in new shows that stretch the imagination and encourage creativity. When asked about his mentors, Landwehr was quick to credit director Des McAnuff. McAnuff is well known in San Diego for cultivating great theater at the La Jolla Playhouse, as well as his work in New York with Tommy.

The J*Company never fails to entertain and when asked if there is a formula to selecting shows, Landwehr shared that “we like to have a big start followed by a show for the younger set, then a classic or broadminded show, and close with an edgier work.” This season is certainly living up to all expectations and I, for one, can’t wait to see J*Company’s rendition of West Side Story.

I wanted to know when Joey first caught the acting bug. His answer surprised me. As a young man, he did not envision his future upon the boards nor in the bright lights. However, after enrolling in an Audition Class during his undergrad studies, Landwehr discovered his love of public speaking. Part of his curriculum included auditioning, and once accepted to the St. Louis Municipal Opera, and receiving his union card…the dye was cast, and so was Joey.

Curious to know if this Director ever gets to see his “graduates” sprout wings, Joey told me that every so often he does get to attend a performance of a J*Company alumnus, and is always delighted to hear from his “kids.” Joey made a point of telling me that “once you’re in a show, you’re family. The J*Company is an all-inclusive, safe haven for all young people. It is not a machine, but a loving, welcoming theater company, where we encourage people” to grow into their potential. In this way, Landwehr believes that J*Company stands out from other youth theaters.

When asked about the role of the audience, Joey explained that the audience is actually a fourth character. He trains his protégées to listen to the audience and heed their cues. Each audience is different and what bothers one audience, delights another. Landwehr believes this is driven by what people see or want to see, he averred.

Though I tried to get it out of him, Joey Landwehr would not offer up what is on tap for next season. He merely informed me that it was top secret and if they can get the rights we will all have our socks knocked off. I’m willing to wait in the green room just as long as the talent on stage continues to sparkle. Peter Pan was truly a star-studded cast, featuring Gabi Lebowitz (Wendy), Adira Rosen (Peter), Julia Price (Hook), Gabriel Meyer (Smee) and Joanne Barber (Tinkerbell).

If you believe in great youth theater….clap your hands! For tickets to the rest of the season, please visit lfjcc.org or call 858.362.1348

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Trieger is a freelance writer who specializes in the arts.  She may be contacted via [email protected]

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Copyright 2014 San Diego Jewish World

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  1. […] that a reality for populations that generally fly under the radar.  As previously reported in the San Diego Jewish World , Landwehr and backers enabled children with new cochlear implants to experience live theater for […]


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