MILLBURN, NJ – A new musical by David Rossmer and Steven Rosen made a splash at Paper Mill Playhouse this past week.
“The Other Josh Cohen” is a light-hearted romp but still grapples with identity issues, making the right choice and letting go of fantasies. The show is a little rough around the edges, could use some tightening and lose some of the padding.
The plot centers on both the present (Rosen) and future (Rossmer) Josh Cohen. Yes, the creators of this musical are also its stars. It seems the present-day Cohen received a check for $56,000 that was sent to him by mistake. It turns out there’s another Josh Cohen at a similar address in New York City. Since this Cohen was recently robbed, he of course would like to keep the check, whether it’s his or not.
That’s about the size of the plot, with plenty of references to landlines, stereotypes and a number of familiar jokes. Narrator Josh, (Rossmer) has an easy, comfortable style. Although he and Rosen wrote the music and lyrics, on stage they’re really not similar enough. I would think the present day Cohen would look younger, despite allusions to a mustache and being overweight.
But they are ably abetted by a super talented, high energy cast: Hannah Elless, Kate Wetherhead, Vadim Feichtner, Ken Triwush and Cathryn Salamone. They all play multiple roles, and instruments, too. Drums, bass, keyboards, percussion and guitar are just some of the instruments this versatile gang conquers. The songs are catchy, from “Neil’s Life’ inspired by Neil Diamond to “Samuel Cohen’s Family Tree.”
Ted Sperling has directed the lively crew with rapid fire timing. Jen Schriever’s lighting design keeps the energy flowing with glittering lights in some scenes, then shifting to Josh‘s drab apartment in others.
But the script needs work. Everyone’s trying too hard to get laughs, from a Darth Vader phone to Disney World and Magic Mountain. The idea is, if you wait long enough, a few minutes on a thrilling ride will be worth it.
Although the show has its limits, Paper Mill deserves credit for bringing something new to the scene and attracting a younger audience. Performances continue through March 16. For tickets, call (973) 376-4343 or visit papermill.org.
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