The sounds of coffee steamers and smells of cocoa beans filled the air of the Chocolate Bar. Long lines of loud, impatient customers wrapped around the counter, while students hurried across Stokes South to their next class. The hectic ambiance forced Christy Coco—singer, actress, and MCAS ’17—to raise her voice to be heard.
But this was nothing new for her. The chaotic atmosphere was reminiscent of a typical backstage setting. Blocking out the seemingly unavoidable distractions, Coco leaned forward across the table eagerly, her face beaming with a wide grin as she recalled the moment that her family discovered that she could sing.
As the Coco family drove home from dinner at their favorite restaurant, they realized a star was in their midst. Coco, a preschooler at the time, convinced her family to have a competition in the car to see who could sing the best rendition of “God Bless America.” Everyone took turns singing it, but none of them were very good. That is, until Christy went.
“My parents always say that they circled around the block a few times so that I could keep singing because that’s when they knew I could sing,” Coco said.
Since then, Coco has been determined to make her dream of being on Broadway a reality. From kindergarten through college, she sought role after role and made herself impossible to ignore.
Shifting the attention away from herself, it was almost a struggle to pin down her most inspirational figures. But, suddenly, there was a light in her eyes as she excitedly remembered the life-changing experience she had when she attended Robert Icke’s modern adaptation of Chekhov’s play, Uncle Vanya, at the Almeida Theatre while studying abroad in London this past spring. The two female leads of the show commanded the stage in such a way that deeply affected Coco more than she had ever been before.
“I had no words for a week,” Coco said. “It was the only thing I could think about, it was the only thing I could comprehend. I felt this intense responsibility to one day achieve that level of success and talent.”
When it came time to decide upon which college she would attend, the decision became a difficult one—not knowing whether to attend a strictly performing arts-oriented university or one that offered her a well-rounded education. She ultimately found a home at Boston College as a theatre major and art history minor.
“I’m all about training and learning the craft of acting and singing, but, for me, it’s also about learning about everything else and putting that into my acting,” Coco said. “Knowing those things and feeling more worldly makes me connect to my work better and find things in scripts that I never would have understood if I didn’t intensely study anything other than acting.”
While at BC, she has not let her school work stop her from pursuing her acting career. Coco starred as Pallas Athena in BC’s fall 2014 production of the classic, Greek tragedy, The Trojan Women, and as Julie Jordan in the Fall 2015 production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel. Not only did both of these shows provide her with substantial onstage experience, but also presented great challenges.
The Trojan Women was the first non-musical stage production with which Coco had been involved. Somewhat of a movement piece, the cast was tasked with creating remarkable sounds and movements based on the play’s language. Although difficult, the show proved to be integral to her later accomplishments. As she attended the British American Drama Academy in London in 2015, she utilized the choreographic and artistic skills she acquired at BC in order to bring another Greek tragedy to life.
The musical Carousel, more in Coco’s realm of interest, still posed its obstacles. She experienced the difficulty of delving deep into a character, Julie Jordan, whose mindset was blurred by how she handles her life and the choices she makes.
These performances, coupled with her BC education, are what prepared her for her jump to the grander stages of off-campus theatre groups and, ultimately, Off-Broadway productions. As a theatre major, Coco has spent her class days focusing on the ins and outs of stage acting—her dream. Coco’s description of the BC’s theatre program seemed to convey a sense of thoroughness to their classes and teachings. The program is focused on an academic approach to theatre which has fostered her understanding of how to value text and understand complicated language and theatre history.
Coco’s next big step, working with the Berkshire Theater Group (BTG), is what put on her the fast track to achieving the level of success she has always longed for and bridged the gap between collegiate theatre and Off-Broadway. She found her start there as an apprentice two summers ago—taking acting, singing, dancing lessons and master classes while she worked parking cars or at concession stands. Her hard work paid off when she was cast in BTG’s big summer show, Bells Are Ringing. The show mixed apprentices like Coco with Broadway veterans and gave her a taste of what it’s like to be a professional.
The next summer, BTG offered her the role of Belle in Beauty and the Beast, a role in which she came into her own. This feeling was strongest when she would perform Belle’s breakout anthem in the second act, “A Change in Me.”
“Every single time I sang it, I felt incredible,” Coco said. “It’s one of those belting songs that I needed to be rooted to the floor for. I felt like I was rocking out. I felt so confident. I felt so powerful, like I took up so much space.”
But nothing could really prepare her for the realities of Off-Broadway theatre. As a part of the ensemble of Fiorello!, a musical about New York City mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia, Coco found herself in the midst of highly trained professionals and faced the fiercely intense rehearsals. In collegiate theatre Coco had all the time in the world to perfect her craft, having three months to put a show together but, at least for Fiorello!, she had to learn an entire show in four days.
Before experiencing the hectic and overwhelming environment of Off-Broadway, however, Coco had a taste of the silver screen. Receiving an email about the role from a casting agency in Boston, she auditioned for a production that she had no idea was The Purge: Election Year. A week after her audition, Coco got a call delivering the great news and realized she would be playing the role of Young Roan, the teenage version of character, Charlie Roan.
Just as she booked the role, Coco made her way to a Rhode Island film lot to shoot her scenes for the film, where she had her own trailer and ended having tons of free time on set—a stark contrast from the fast paced world of theatre. In retrospect, though, Coco wouldn’t trade the challenge for the world.
“My passion has always been performing live theatre,” Coco said. “My heart is definitely on the stage.”
She brought this passion back to BC this past fall when she performed with the Boston Pops at “Pops on the Heights” in September. Thinking about the event, Coco remembered how terrifying the experience was.
“I was just so moved by what was going on behind me. It was wild,” she said.
Then, eyes wide as she pondered all that she has accomplished and all that she hopes to attain after college, she just shook her head in wonderment with a slight smile and said, “This is my life.”
Featured Image by Steven Everett