'Walking to Venus' reaches for the stars
June 4, 2003
Effie Bathen
Staff Writer

Photos by Effie Bathen/The Gazette

Carolyn and Rob Cohen have teamed up to create and produce another children's play for the second- and third-graders at Fallsmead Elementary School.

The musical Cohens are not part of a Vaudeville act from an earlier era.

As far as folks at Fallsmead Elementary School in Rockville are concerned, Carolyn and Rob Cohen are a talented couple headed for future stardom.

"They are the most amazingly talented people on this universe," pianist Nina Helwig said.

Helwig has worked with the couple for five years and said their children's entertainment productions are an undiscovered "little gem in the county."

Rob, a landscape architect by day, has written his second original musical play which second- and third-graders will perform this week at the school.

Carolyn is the director and producer of the 40-minute show, entitled "Walking to Venus."

Rob said he was out walking one night when a giant full moon appeared before him. He thought he might write a tune about walking to the moon.

As it turned out, that seemed too ordinary.

"I changed it to Venus, the brightest star," said Rob, who confessed that he has always enjoyed writing music for himself.

Several years ago, Carolyn found herself directing one of the elementary school's annual plays. After a while, she asked her poetic and musical husband to write a few tunes and adaptations for the little shows.

They included well-known stories such as "Mr. Popper's Penguins."

He wrote such wonderful music and lyrics for those that she suggested he write a whole play including dialogue and musical production numbers.

Last year's show was entitled "The No-Rules Club."

Parents say they still hear children, sometimes brothers and sisters of the players, humming tunes from that show.

Parent Nancy LoCascio called Cohen's music remarkable.

"It's like when you listen to great Broadway music and it brings on all those emotions," she said.

This year's production will likely leave the audience joining in the lively final reprise of the title tune: "Walking to Venus, strolling to Mars, drifting past Jupiter, guided by the stars."

Carolyn Cohen said her husband of 27 years has been musical since they were high school sweethearts at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda. He plays piano and guitar by ear.

"He used to write music for me when we were dating," she said. "He loves it."

Parents describe the eight tunes in this show as playful, simple and catchy.

Rob Cohen said the difficult part about writing the school productions is including parts for 55 children.

Every child in Carolyn Cohen's second grade and Tula Deligianis' third grade gets a part, LoCascio said.

In this year's show, the story centers around four children who appear to fall asleep on a camping trip. They dream about traveling to Venus. Along the way, they meet five different celestial tribes.

The Blackanwhites, think only in absolutes. The Whatifs cannot make decisions easily. The Jokers think everything is a joke. The Unos speak only in one-word sentences. The Wannas want to be the center of attention.

In the end, the play's musical message is that you have to think for yourself as you travel through life, the director said.

The author of the 27-page script added that another message for the children is that they can be reaching for the stars.