THE BASICS: THE OTHER JOSH COHEN, a musical comedy by David Rossmer and Steve Rosen, directed by Randall Kramer, presented by MusicalFare, opened April 20 and runs through May 22 Wednesdays – Thursdays at 7 pm, Fridays at 7:30 pm, Saturdays at 3:30 pm and 7:30 pm, Sundays at 2 pm at MusicalFare Theatre on the Daemen College campus, 4380 Main Street, Amherst, NY 14226 (pro tip: enter off Getzville Road). (716 839-8540) musicalfare.com Runtime: 90 minutes, no intermission, full-service bar open before and after the show
THUMBNAIL SKETCH: Josh Cohen has no girlfriend and no prospects for a Valentine’s date. He’s broke, and his New York City apartment’s just been robbed of everything but a Neil Diamond CD. It seems that Josh is a good guy caught in a lifelong battle with bad luck. But, in the middle of his pity party, a mysterious letter arrives that changes his life forever. This fast-paced romantic comedy features a six-member on-stage ensemble of very talented musician-singer-actors who can do it all.
THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: I was surprised and a little embarrassed by how much I liked, make that loved, this production. I mean, as a “critic” aren’t I supposed to maintain an aloof “critical” eye? But I found myself really laughing out loud over and over at this musical that seemed written just for Baby-Boomer-me.
Right away they had me at the appearance of two Josh Cohens, dressed a little grungy, identically, one the Josh Cohen of a year ago (Joey Donahue III) and the other guy the Josh Cohen of today (Zak Ward) completing each other’s stories. Great concept, and if that sounds confusing, it’s not when you see it. Nor is the whirlwind of many, many other characters portrayed by the rest of this very experienced cast. Taking on a number of “utility” roles are Brandon Barry (various younger men) and Robert Insana (various older men) along with Theresa Quinn playing the older women and Solange Gosselin playing the younger ones.
When they’re not acting these six are also the on-stage musicians (a seventh, Peggy Scalzo, plays drums off-stage). This multi-talented group plays on three kinds of keyboards, an accordion, something called a keytar (imagine a small keyboard instrument held like a guitar), both acoustic and electric guitars, a mandolin, and a violin, and, courtesy of Ms. Solange, a saxophone!
Director Randy Kramer got fine performances from one and all during a very well-rehearsed opening night. The actors all seemed natural and their movements felt organic.
The regular Musicalfare production crew once again delivered. Actors will always tell you that the makeup, wigs, and costumes are critical to getting into and inhabiting a role, and all those roles were made possible by Kari Drozd (costumes) and Susan Drozd (Hair, Wigs, and Make-up). The Set, Lighting, and Sound Design by Chris Cavanagh held a number of delights as did the properties by Kevin Fahey. A special call-out for props? Yes, in this musical there are many and each one is almost a little character on its own.
It's funny but also tender. After two years of putting up with the pandemic, isn’t it time to get out for a good laugh with a happy ending?
Is this high art? Absolutely not and could almost be dinner theater except that it’s so fast-paced it’s much better to be in the forward-facing dedicated Musicalfare theater seats. Instruments are picked up, put down, characters pop up then disappear, and after 90 minutes they’ve gone through 15 musical numbers.
It’s funny but also tender. After two years of putting up with the pandemic, isn’t it time to get out for a good laugh with a happy ending? I’d suggest THE OTHER JOSH COHEN.
*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)
ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.
TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.
THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.
FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.
FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!