What do you do when your nose falls off?
That was the question facing David Rossmer his first time on stage. He was playing the starring role in an elementary school production of Pinocchio, and his prosthetic proboscis came lose.
“I somehow went on with the show,” says the River Edge native, who has pursued a career on stage as an actor and backstage as a playwright and lyricist. In his most recent production, “The Other Josh Cohen,” he is both co-author and actor, playing one of the two Josh Cohens at the center of the musical comedy.
His is the older Josh, narrating the events of his year-younger-self, played by Rossmer’s writing partner, Steve Rosen.
Rossmer and Rosen met as kids at French Woods performing arts summer camp in upstate New York. “We met doing an improvisation. We made each other laugh and ever since have been the closest of friends,” Rossmer said.
They were working together in Los Angeles on a television project when “The Other Josh Cohen” was born.
“One night Neil Diamond came to us like Elijah and we just started writing these songs,” Rossmer said.
The spirit of the American Jewish singer-songwriter was summoned by a video game the creative duo played to relax the night before an important meeting.
“The music sounded like a Neil Diamond song,” said. “In the apartment Steve sublet, there was a guitar on the wall. We took it down and started to write a lot of songs that felt in the style of Neil Diamond.
“We just had so much fun. The sun came out and we had eight songs, Neil Diamond-style songs, and all except one ended up in the show. We had such a blast we just wanted to share them.
“Steve and I both love Neil Diamond. My first Neil Diamond record was Hot August Night. My mother had an incredible record collection. I always listened to Neil Diamond and Sergeant Pepper. And Jacques Brel, for some reason, in French. She loved music. She played the piano and guitar; that’s the reason I play piano and guitar,” he said.
As for the plot of “The Other Josh Cohen,” Rossmer said that “it was a true story. Most of it is true. It’s been embellished for the theater. We chose the name to protect the innocent. The person it happened to had a very common Jewish name. We sort of took the truth and shielded it.”
Despite having changed the name of the protagonist, the playwrights have been getting calls from real Josh Cohens. “I say, of course we didn’t write a musical about you. We don’t know you,'” Rossmer said.
“But I have trouble with money and heartache and I like Neil Diamond,” replied a Josh Cohen.
Nonetheless, there is good news for the Josh Cohens of the world: They’re eligible for a special discount code.