Blame Mario Kart. Actually, thank Mario Kart.
The racing game is what ultimately led to the creation of Off-Broadway musical The Other Josh Cohen—currently playing at the Westside Theatre through February 24—and all because the introductory music reminded writers and stars Steve Rosen and David Rossmer of a certain legendary singer-songwriter.
Firing up the game, the guys immediately thought, “This kind of sounds like a long-lost Neil Diamond song,” Rossmer recalls. “So we pulled the guitar off the wall of the sublet apartment and by the end of the night we came up with five or six of the songs that are still in the show.”
Neil Diamond aside, the show couldn’t be more relevant today. In it, Future Josh Cohen (Rossmer) narrates the story of what happens after Past Josh Cohen (played by Rosen) had everything stolen from his apartment save one Neil Diamond greatest hits CD. Along the way, he learns the power of kindness, cat calendars, and not letting the phone ring too long before hanging up.
“Right at this moment, a lot of people are not feeling like you get rewarded for trying to be a good person,” Rossmer says. “Kindness is in high demand and sort of short supply in the world right now. And I feel like our show shows you a person who is trying his best to be a good person, who, just like you, gets—”
“Crapped on,” Rosen interjects to Rossmer’s agreement.
Longtime friends, the two share an easy rapport on and off the stage. Directed by Hunter Foster, The Other Josh Cohen has a friendly, relaxed feeling that envelops the audience as songs are sung, jokes are delivered, and costumes changes are made with pinpoint precision. Joining the two leads are Luke Darnell, Hannah Elless, Elizabeth Nestlerode, Zach Spound, Louis Tucci, and Kate Wetherhead, all playing instruments and assorted characters as Josh Cohen tries to figure out how to get from where he is to where Future Josh is. And Rosen and Rossmer couldn’t be more delighted with their co-stars.
“It’s so fun to see people deliver lines and get laughs in places that no one has ever gotten laughs before,” Rosen says. “Everyone is so diverse and so interesting, and it amazes me sometimes to see them come up and have the audience in the palm of their hand and then go play four instruments a second later.”
And for those who have seen the show once, there are reasons to return. “We hide a lot of things in this show,” Rosen adds. “If you come back again, you’re going to catch things all throughout the show that are hidden just for you.”
The kindness never stops.