The first time I spoke to Steve Rosen, almost 10 years ago, I credited him with sole responsibility for the Broadway production of “Spamalot.” Forget Monty Python. It was a Steve Rosen production.
Rosen played Sir Bedevere as well as several other characters, and of course participated in the chorus of the song that generated the most audience reaction, “You Won’t Succeed On Broadway.” It went like this:
In any great adventure,
that you don’t want to lose,
victory depends upon the people that you choose.
So, listen, Arthur darling, closely to this news:
We won’t succeed on Broadway,
If you don’t have any Jews.
The song went on to suggest that without Jews all you’ll get is boos. Your show won’t be saved even with great reviews, if you don’t have any Jews.
It turned out I was wrong. After the story was published, director Mike Nichols approached Rosen and said “You’re not the only out Jew in this production.”
Rosen offered that postscript in a phone conversation about his latest production, “The Other Josh Cohen.” It opens February 23 at the Paper Mill Theatre in Millburn, N.J., in what Rosen hopes is a pre-Broadway run.
The show originally ran off-Broadway for a brief Hurricane Sandy-interrupted run. But good reviews have prompted producers to resurrect the show.
Curt Schleier: I thought it was an inventive show and great fun. Where did that come from?
“The Other Josh Cohen” may be the reason they invented off-Broadway. On the face of it, this clever and original musical about fate and Jewish guilt may seem too slight for the Great White Way. But in truth, it is witty and smart and far more entertaining than many of the projects that open (and usually quickly close) on Broadway.
There are actually three Josh Cohens in the production. One lives in the present, as a narrator played by David Rossmer (who co-wrote book, music and lyrics). His doppelgänger, played by Steve Rosen (the other co-writer), is Cohen of a year ago.
The problem is that a little over two years ago, the doppelgänger came home and discovered his apartment had been robbed. Everything was gone, from his computer to the cake he’d left in the refrigerator to his sole porno DVD, “Oversexed Injury Lawyers.” The only thing left behind was a CD, “Neil Diamond III,” which is certainly not his best material.
Cohen feels like the burglary is the final insult. It started in grade school, when Betsy refused his entreaties because he had cooties, and continued in high school when Jen turned him down because the poem he sent her “made me think of Shel Silverstein, which is perfect if I was 13.”