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A CurtainUp Review
By Elyse Sommer
There are now five instead of four musicians doing double duty as "a bunch of other people." Luckily my two favorite instrumentalist/supportingto make it all work like a full-scale book musical. Luckily, my favorite musician/actors, Kate weatherell and Hannah Elless, are still on board. And so of course are the stars who also wrote the book, music and lyrics.
The Westside Theater is larger (and more comfortable) than the Soho playhouse, but not too large; in short, just right. Just right is what this show was and still is. It's light but not too light to have something meaningful and hopeful to say. Therefore, What follows is an updated version of my original take.
When baseball manager Leo Durocher coined his famous "nice guys finish last" back in 1938 he wasn't thinking of nice nebbishes like Josh Cohen for whom Valentine's Day is the unhappiest day of the year. Nor was Rabbi Harold Kushner thinking of romantic miseries and cash flow problems when he addressed the question of When Bad Things Happen to Good People in his 1978 best seller.
But this endearing little musical, gives Durocher's baseball nice guys an everyman common twist. This show's unlook-alike Narrator Josh and Other Josh also take a more light-hearted approach to Rabbi Kushner's contemplation on the suffering and pain inflicted on even a nice mensch like Josh.
Besides a book that disproves Durocher's idiom and leavening Kushner's serious theological ponderings, The Other Josh Cohen serves the purpose of showcasing David Rossmer and Steve Rosen's multiple talents. The enjoyable book, catchy tunes are energetically performed by Rossmer and Rosen — the former as Narrator and present day Josh and the latter as the mustachioed year-ago Josh.
The dynamic Josh duo has enough show biz savvy (both have solid resumes that include Broadway musical credits) haven't taken their stardom ambitions too far. Thus they've left the direction in the capable hands of Ted Sperling originally and now Hunter Foster. They've also wisely opted to make the multi-talented 5-piece band on stage so that they can readily pop up as the various people who wander in and out of Josh's story. The musician/actors' sailing in and out of more characters than I could count is greatly abetted by the Nicole W. Moody's dazzling costumes and J. Jared Jonas's array of amusing wigs.
With a name like Cohen it's hardly surprising that much of the humor derives from Jewish shtick and that the other people include the stereotypical Jewish mother and father, and Jewish guilt to drive the way Josh deals with an unanticipated and much needed financial windfall that's probably not intended for him. But familiar stand-up routine-like as all this may sound, The Other Josh Cohen is a pleasant escape from real life worries about diminished job opportunities and incomes, not to mention world peace and climate change.
The set-up of having Rossmer and Rosen interact as the title character's present-day persona and the one whose bad luck took a dramatic turn for the worse and then another turn for a nice guys can finish first ending turns trite into terrific fun. Actually there's really another Josh who's heard but not seen and very much instrumental in the outcome of the two-in-one Josh's story.
Rossmer and Rosen delightfully kvetch, sing and dance their way through recollections of how Josh's dismal history with women and professional success is exacerbated by having his apartment broken into and leaving him without a single possession, except a Neal Diamond CD, and that not even the one with Diamond's diamonds. The plot (and this is a book with a beginning, middle and satisfying end) does feature a sudden reversal of fortune via a $56,000 check made out to Josh Cohen from an unknown Florida relative.
Much of the fun comes from the verve with which Rossmar and Rosen's musician/actors play all those people in the Josh saga. That includes Josh's family who are hilariously brought to life in a telephone interchange with Josh and my favorite song, "Samuel Cohen's Family Tree."
If you go, and I think you should, plan to get there a bit early. That way you'll actually see the burglary that begins Josh's journey from disaster to happy ending.
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The Other Josh Cohen
Book, Music and Lyrics by David Rossmer and Steve Rosen
Directed by Hunter Foster
Musical Staging by Whitney G-Bowley
Musical Direction by Dan Lipton
Cast: David Rossmer (Narrator Josh), Steve Rosen (Josh Cohen), Kate Wetherhead (A lot of People), Louis Tucci (A Bunch of People), Hannah Elless (A Bunch of Other People), Luke Darnell (The Rest of the People) and Elizabeth Nestlerode (At Least One More Person)
Scenic Design: Carolyn Mraz
Costume Design: Nicole V. Moody
Lighting Design: Jeff Croiter
Sound Design: Bart Fasbender
Hair and wig design: J. Jared Jana
Orchestrations: David Lipton & David Rossmer
Stage Manager: Rebecca McBee
Running Time: 90 minutes withott an intermission
Westside Theatre 407 West 43rd Street
From 10/26/18; opening 11/12/18; closing 2/24/19
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer on 11/14/18
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