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'The Other Josh Cohen' review: Get charmed by this cute musical

Pop musical shines at cozy Westside Theatre.

David Rossmer, left, and Steve Rosen as different

David Rossmer, left, and Steve Rosen as different Josh Cohens, along with the company of "The Other Josh Cohen." Photo Credit: Caitlin McNaney

'The Other Josh Cohen' runs at the Westside Theatre through April 28. 407 W. 43rd St.,

The well-meaning, nerdy nice guy wins the day and even wins the girl in “The Other Josh Cohen,” a thin but cute and cozy Valentine’s Day card of a musical written by and starring David Rossmer and Steve Rosen, which is now running Off-Broadway in the Times Square area following a number of prior New York and regional engagements.

I previously came across “The Other Josh Cohen” at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse in 2014, where much of the show’s simple charm got lost as a result of the venue’s large size. Because it is a pocket-sized show that relies upon a direct relationship with the audience, it works far much more effectively at the intimate downstairs space of the Westside Theatre, where previous tenants have included “The Vagina Monologues” and “Love, Loss, and What I Wore.”

Rosen (“Spamalot”) and Rossmer (“Peter and the Starcatcher”) play alternate versions of the title character, with Rosen as the present-day, hapless, self-pitying Josh and Rossmer as the future happier and healthier Josh, who narrates the fast-paced story while also playing guitar and interacting with his other self.

They are joined by several other performers who sing, play instruments and occasionally take on small roles (including yet another Josh Cohen), creating the aura of an informal, high-energy jamboree.

Josh’s tale begins with a thief stealing all the possessions in his ground floor apartment (which director Hunter Foster has turned into an unusual kind of preshow entertainment) — with the exception of a CD of Neil Diamond’s biggest hits (Vol. 3) and the DVD cover of a porn film (“Oversexed Injury Lawyers”).

From there, Josh undergoes an unlikely, good-humored saga of lucky turns, hard decisions and self-discovery, infused with a healthy dose of flashbacks and dream sequences, references to “Star Wars,” “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” and Jewish heritage, and cameos from former girlfriends, extended family and Neil Diamond (gamely portrayed with flash and flare by Kate Wetherhead, “Submissions Only”).

The pop-tinged score (although not top-shelf quality) is relatively pleasant and the storytelling is full of “Seinfeld”-style observational humor.

The Sunday afternoon performance that I attended began at 3:30, at least a half-hour later than the other matinees in the area. Much of the audience might have comprised tourists who had waited unsuccessfully on the cancellation line at “Hamilton” and were now looking for something else — perhaps anything else — to see.  If so, they could have done a lot worse than “The Other Josh Cohen.”


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