BWW Review: THE OTHER JOSH COHEN Proves Diamond is a Guy's Best Friend

No, that's not a stage hand making some last minute set adjustments before every performance of Paper Mill's snazzy new production of The Other Josh Cohen. That's the exposition in action.

Steve Rosen and David Rossmer (Photo: Billy Bustamante)

Steve Rosen and David Rossmer's pop rock musical charmer begins on a particularly unlucky Valentine's Day, when the title fellow comes home to find his apartment nearly completely cleaned out by thief. Early arrivals witness the removal of his furnishings and possessions, capped off by the ceremonious removal of a movie poster from Willie Wonka And The Chocolate Factory. All that remains, we eventually find out, is an empty porn DVD case and Josh's Neil Diamond III CD.

But it's no spoiler to tell you that things are going to work out okay for ol' Josh, because there he is at the top of the show, played by Rosen, looking fit and happy and flashing a million-dollar smile as he strums a guitar and narrates the happenings that began spinning a year ago that very night.

Hannah Elless, Kate Wetherhead, Steve Rosen, Ken Triwush
and David Rossmer (Photo: Jerry Dalia)

Rossmer plays the Josh he once was; awkward, shlubby and overweight with a thick mustache that makes him a ringer for David Merrick. A struggling writer with a love life laced with broken hearts, he's a nerdy fixer-upper with the positive attitude that comes with thinking that life can't possibly get any worse.

Aided by an onstage band of actors playing multiple roles - Kate Wetherhead, Vadim Feichtner, Hannah Elless, Ken Triwush and Cathryn Salamone - Josh and Josh gives us a recount of his romantic and family foibles before a potentially life-changing quirk of fate occurs. And yes, it involves someone else named Josh Cohen.

With a fun score that frequently riffs off of Josh's beloved Neil Diamond ("Neil life is better than real life," goes one of the intentionally cheesy numbers.) and a clever book that's heavy on urban Jewish humor and pop culture references (Darth Vader makes an appearance.), The Other Josh Cohen is one of those rare rock musicals that trades aggressive sexiness for nice-guy sincerity.

Better known as an ace music director/conductor/orchestrator, Ted Sperling is no stranger to stage directing and mounts a breezy "rock concert with a plot" production. Wetherhead, always a reliable comic performer, nails the biggest laughs as an assortment of potential girlfriends and an iconic Neil Diamond.

You can fit six sold out houses at the SoHo Playhouse, where The Other Josh Cohen played Off-Broadway two years ago, inside The Paper Mill, but while the show may be small in size, it has a big heart and loads of exuberance.

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