Conference Call: "The Other Josh Cohen": David Rossmer & Steve Rosen
A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to see the hilarious, cleverly written, and superbly performed Off-Broadway hit musical The Other Josh Cohen. Written by & starring David Rossmer and Steve Rosen, The Other Josh Cohen is the perfect show for anyone who is looking to laugh and be entertained for 90 minutes. It’s also a show for anyone who believes in love, is looking for love, is in love, or has been in love. And if you are a Star Wars, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, or Neil Diamond fan, you are going to love it that much more!
The Other Josh Cohen is about good-guy-Josh, caught in a lifelong battle with bad luck. Broke and alone, all hope seems lost – until a mysterious letter arrives that changes his life forever. “From the moment audiences enter the Westside Theatre, they are immersed in the quirky world of Josh Cohen’s New York City apartment… as it is getting robbed. Thus begins the hilarious rock-and-roll romantic comedy.”
The Other Josh Cohen plays at The Westside Theatre (407 West 43rd Street, between 9th & 10th Avenue) through the recently extended date of April 28. Click here for tickets!
1. How did the two of you come together to write The Other Josh Cohen?
David Rossmer: How could we NOT come together to write it? We’ve been friends since summer camp, and have been making each other laugh ever since. One day we were in LA, nervous about a TV meeting the next morning. Steve suggested we play Mario Kart (which happened to be in the sublet apartment). When the opening screen came on, the music sounded like Neil Diamond. We grabbed the guitar off the wall and started writing songs in the style of Neil. By the end of the night we had five or six tunes that are still in the show today. We had always wanted to tell a story about someone who gets what he thinks he wants, and in losing it, finds what he REALLY wants…and these songs seemed perfect to tell it. Thus, thanks to Mario Kart and Neil Diamond, the show was born.
Steve Rosen: The actual night we started writing The Other Josh Cohen I was subletting a place in LA and David came in from New York so I guess to answer your question, David took a plane and I used a car. The two of us have been making stuff together since we were teenagers when we met at French Woods Summer camp. So in a way, the show was originally born from our parents’ desire to get us kids out of the house for Summer vacation.
2. What was the easiest part of the show to write?
David Rossmer: The tunes, baby.
Steve Rosen: Probably the robbery. We had this idea that the time spent between seating the audience and the show actually starting was a waste of prime entertaining time. As you enter the Westside Theatre, you literally enter into "Josh’s" apartment and can spend the entire pre-show watching a burglar dismantle and steal almost everything "Josh" owns. Best part for us, no lines to write! :)
3. What was the most difficult?
David Rossmer: The beginning. It took a few productions of the show to find the best way to launch into the story. And then ding! The light went off and we wrote the opening number. If you get to the theater early enough, you can watch Josh’s apartment being robbed by the way, it’s fun.
Steve Rosen: I feel like the first number of a musical is usually the hardest nut to crack. It took us a couple of tries in other productions of the show, but we feel like we’ve landed a great and funny way to both explain "Josh’s" life situation, but also the central storytelling concept that David and I both play "Josh Cohen" one year apart. The song includes the refrain, “losing everything is only the beginning.” And as you’ve just watched "Josh’s" apartment get robbed, it’s quite literally true.
4. I saw the show a few weeks ago with my boyfriend and just loved it. So funny! So many parts where we looked at each other and smiled. What moment in the show makes you smile the most?
David Rossmer: First of all, thank you. You and your boyfriend have impeccable taste. Secondly, I smile every time the back wall opens up, smoke pours out and there is the brilliant actress Jane Bruce playing Neil Diamond. Ooh, there’s also a fun cameo by Darth Vader that makes me giggle.
Steve Rosen: Thank you so much for coming and I'm so happy you two loved it. It is such a joy to perform and the greatest thrill comes from hearing waves of hysterical laughter from the audience night after night. If I had to pick one moment in the show that makes me smile the most it would probably be Louis Tucci masterfully reciting "Dr. Cohen's" endless outgoing answering machine message.
5. I love all the Star Wars and Charlie & The Chocolate Factory references throughout the show. Why do you think these two pop culture films connected with you most when it came to Josh’s dating journey?
David Rossmer: We both loved these films (still do) and felt like they were relatable and universal…and we also wanted to make a musical that was, I dunno, maybe a little geeky cool.
Steve Rosen: We both love these films and have been greatly influenced by repeat viewings throughout our lives. They both center on people who try to be honest and do the right thing, even when the world is telling them they could get away with (and would probably benefit from) lying or cheating their way through. "Josh" is like a chubby "Luke Skywalker" mixed with a mustachioed "Charlie Bucket," ha.
6. I also love the way you tell this story. Without giving too much away, what is one thing you wish you could have told yourself about the process of bringing this show to life that you didn't know during the initial creative process?
David Rossmer: Ahhhh, I think you refer to the fact that the character of "Josh Cohen" is played by two actors. Tis true. One in the present, telling the story of what happened to him one year ago…and yes, they interact and make fun of each other. If I could talk to myself one year ago in real life, I would probably tell myself to bet on the Patriots.
Steve Rosen: Thank you! I don’t think it’s spoiling anything to say that David and I both play "Josh Cohen," one year apart. You can tell immediately by David's lack of both a belly and mustache that "Narrator Josh" has come a long way from last year. I essentially play the “before” picture in an ad for changing your life. I guess one thing I would’ve told myself would be to snag some more of those original plaid shirts we bought from Old Navy during our first production. They were awesome and had a dash of orange in them and we’ve been trying to find similar ones ever since to wear in real life. :)
7. My other favorite thing about the show is how much of a role Neil Diamond and his music plays into the story. If you could duet with Neil on any one of his songs, which one would you choose?
David Rossmer: "Walk on Water." Hands down.
Steve Rosen: My favorite Neil song is "Solitary Man” which I recognize would be ironic to have two people sing. Maybe if we both played the same person one year apart?
But if he’d be willing, we’d love to have Neil record some of our tunes from The Other Josh Cohen like “Hang On” or “Neil Life." They are homages to his awesomeness. On our album we couldn’t get Neil so we got Jenn Colella to sing his parts, naturally. In fact, check out our fabulous studio album and you can hear tons of huge celebrities like Sutton Foster, Kelli O’Hara, Brian D’Arcy James, Jimmi Simpson, Lindsay Mendez, Celia Keenan-Bolger, James Roday, Hank Azaria, Chita Rivera, James Monroe Iglehart and Caissie Levy playing every part in the show that isn’t a "Josh."
8. With so many characters coming in and out of the story, what's the biggest funny mishap you've had so far?
David Rossmer: Well it’s only funny because she’s okay, but the amazingly talented Cathryn Wake, who plays Josh’s "Aunt Bea," fell down the stairs on her way to the back of the theater, where she makes a grand entrance in a gold track suit. Because of the fall, she didn’t get her wig on in time, so as we are beginning her song onstage, we see emerging from the theater..."Aunt Bea…" in a Broadway Bares baseball cap. It was all she could find. We were so confused and giggly.
Steve Rosen: My favorite mishap came just the other day. David and I sing a fun duet called “Manly Purple Tie” about all the things "Josh" would do if he were wealthy. We’ve performed the song hundreds of times but somehow I went into the twilight zone and started singing the wrong verse...which caused David to sing the wrong verse. Suddenly we’re singing a string of nonsense words until we got back on track. It’s fun to work with a friend you can make up stuff with, in front of an audience, and then act like nothing happened.
9. If The Other Josh Cohen was turned into a film, who would you want to play the “Josh?”
David Rossmer: Adam Levine and Josh Gad. Or maybe Tenacious D.
Steve Rosen: Ooooh. Great question. I think I’d cast Joseph Gordon-Levitt as "Narrator Josh" and James Corden as "Josh Cohen." Or Adam Levine and Josh Gad? Or Adam Sandler and Jack Black?
10. Rapid Fire Questions:
I’m so nervous!
- Coke or Pepsi? Pepsi. Diet.
- Colgate or Crest? Colgate! After drinking Pepsi? Come on.
- Twizzerls or Red Vines? Twizzlers please. Red or chocolate, I’m not picky.
- Favorite go to Emoji when texting? I honestly don’t use emojis. I prefer to write them out, like “Happy banana” or "Poop with sunglasses."
- Coke or Pepsi? Coke. Zero.
- Colgate or Crest? Colgate. Paste. (I’m the son of a dentist, so…)
- Twizzlers or Red Vines? Twizzlers. But I’d trade them both in for a handful of Raisinettes.
- Favorite go to Emoji when texting? My life is in a perpetual state of “facepalm."
More on David:
David Rossmer co-wrote Rated P, which began Off-Broadway, was developed for TV by Kelly Ripa’s Milojo Productions, and bought by ABC Studios. With Dan Lipton, Rossmer is currently writing the Broadway showMonopoly for Hasbro, in collaboration with 3-time Tony Award nominee Rick Elice (Jersey Boys). Rossmer and Lipton’s original comedy The Blonde Streak is being produced by Grove Entertainment, and their futuristic parable The Perfect Mate was just commissioned by Pittsburgh CLO. They wrote “They Don’t Let You in the Opera (If You’re a Country Star)” featured on Kelli O’Hara’s Always album, and performed by the Tony winner in concerts across the country, including Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. Rossmer was recently announced as part of the inaugural class of Audible playwrights, commissioned by Amazon. As a performer, he has appeared on Broadway in: Titanic, Fiddler on the Roof, Peter and the Starcatcher (originated role of Teddy) and Thenardier in Les Misérables. On television he has appeared on SVU, Vinyl, Blue Bloods, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel andThe Good Fight.
More on Steve:
Steve Rosen is currently co-adapting the Universal film The Secret of My Success for thestage. This Broadway-bound musical just completed a successful workshop in NYC starring Christian Slater. Rosen also wrote (with Gordon Greenberg) a unique comic take on A Christmas Carol titled Ebenezer Scrooge’s Big (Your Town here) Christmas Show. A smash hit this past holiday season at the Bucks County Playhouse, the show is slated for an annual return there, as well as other theatres across the country. Steve was also recently commissioned to create an evening of original material for theprestigious Washington University in St. Louis Law School’s 150th anniversary celebration. As a performer, Rosen originated principal roles in the Broadway productions of Monty Python’s Spamalot, The Farnsworth Invention, and played Benny Southstreet in the Broadway revival of Guys and Dolls. For his acting work Off-Broadway, he has been nominated for Drama Desk and Lucille Lortel Awards. On television he has appeared on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Nurse Jackie, Masters of Sex and is currently playing recurring roles on NBC’s Law and Order: SVU and Fox’s The Resident.