I have to admit, it was fun going into the Paper Mill Playhouse to see The Other Josh Cohen and knowing nothing about it. So if you want to do the same, skip the review, but know that it’s a really fun show.
We went on press night, though we were not there as official press (we bid on our tickets at a silent auction). Paper Mill Playhouse – please put me on your press list! And I have a few recommendations for Paper Mill, but I’ll put those at the bottom.
The musical is about a NYC man named Josh Cohen who is trying to get his life together. He’s underemployed, loveless, poor and feels the world is out to get him, but he’s also a mensch. In a quirky twist, the narrator is an older version of Josh Cohen (and it’s not the OTHER Josh Cohen). Josh Cohen gets a big check from a mysterious person, possibly a relative, possibly a mistake. What will he do with the check? I won’t spoil that for you.
Why it’s unique
There are few things that make this show unique. Like in Once the Musical (review here), the other actors play numerous small parts, but also double as the band. They have really nice singing voices, act well and play instruments – a trifecta! Plus they’re often putting on their costumes or wigs in front of you (though it’s often so subtle you don’t notice). Josh and the narrator interact as well.
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When I looked at playbill, the non-Josh Cohen characters are “a bunch of people, “a lot of people,” “the rest of the people,” “at least one more person,” and “a bunch of other people.” I didn’t get that at first, but now I do. And now I appreciate the humor in it – it totally fits with the show. Some of my favorite characters from the show are Josh’s parents and their friend the lawyer, Neil Diamond, Samuel Cohen and the lesbian couple in the building. As with all Paper Mill productions, the actors all have impressive backgrounds.
The set is also different. The action takes place in Josh’s empty apartment (it was robbed just before the show begins). The band is set up there . The boxed apartment is in the middle of the stage, contained within another screened off area. That doesn’t really matter, except when they use funky lighting, then it looks cool.
If you’re looking for the deep meaning of life, you’re not going to find it in this show. But you will be totally entertained, with funny songs, dialogue and characters. And you’ll come away with a new appreciation for Neil Diamond.
See some highlights of the show here (spoiler alert!)
Is The Other Josh Cohen appropriate for kids? We did not bring our kids (date night!). That said, there’s no sexual content (a few chaste kisses) and I don’t recall any curse words. There are some references to porn, though I think they’d go over the heads of most kids. But the themes are not ones that kids would really enjoy. They would find much of it funny, just like adults do. There are some sight gags and the staging is fun, as are the various characters. But it’s not really a kid play.
Paper Mill – I’d recommend opening the theater doors a little earlier because those people standing en masse outside the doors 30 minutes before the show were blocking the way for those of us trying to go upstairs. Fire hazard! And you had a new/training bartender downstairs by the front doors. I don’t believe the man has ever tasted wine or alcohol based on his actions. The man next to me ordered a glass of Pinot and the bartender got out the Pinot Grigio. Yes, the same first word, but I’ve never heard anyone refer to the white variety just at Pinot. When the customer corrected him, the bartender then put ICE in the cup and almost started pouring the Pinot Noir into it, before the customer corrected him again. Perhaps the new bartender could usher instead? I felt for him. He looked very nervous, and I could understand why.
When: through March 16, 2014
Where: Paper Mill Playhouse – tickets here