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Burroughs High drama duo receive awards and unexpected confidence boost

Janina Colucci and Coen Sosa won Jerry Herman Awards for Best Actress and Best Actor recently for th
Janina Colucci and Coen Sosa won Jerry Herman Awards for Best Actress and Best Actor recently for their roles in the musical “West Side Story” at John Burroughs High School earlier this year.
(Courtesy of John Burroughs High School)

Only a few months ago, Burroughs High School drama students Coen Sosa and Janina Colucci wouldn’t have considered themselves serious actors.

If anything, acting was a gateway to having a good time and wasn’t in either’s long-term plans.

Their thinking, and perhaps planning, may have changed as both were recognized with Jerry Herman Awards as the top actor and actress for their roles in Burroughs’ production of “West Side Story.”

In addition to the duo’s honors, Burroughs also won for best orchestra a second straight year, while Providence High School’s Sabrina Williams was named best supporting actress for her rendition of the song “Race” in the musical “Newsies.”


The Jerry Herman awards ceremony, honoring Los Angeles County’s top high school performing arts programs, was held at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre on May 5.

With the victory, Sosa and Colucci earned one week of master classes, beginning June 16, in New York City with still-to-be-determined Broadway professionals before performing on stage for a chance to win a National High School Music Theatre honor, also known as the Jimmy Awards.

“It’s surreal,” said Sosa, who will be graduating Thursday. “I was really nervous to approach the role because I’m not, I don’t really consider myself an actor, or rather, I don’t consider myself a heavy, emotional actor. I didn’t realize how emotional I’d have to get for this role.”

Sosa played Tony in “West Side Story,” which debuted on Broadway in 1957.


“To keep it fresh for me, I would take any kind of inspiration, any thought or feeling Tony was having and I would try to, in any way I could, relate it to my own problems, just to make it feel as real as possible,” Sosa said.

Sosa is planning to head to Azusa Pacific University this fall to major in commercial music, though he said he’ll “continue to act and look for more roles.”

Colucci, a junior, had the daunting task of playing Anita in the musical, a role which was portrayed on Broadway by 10-time Tony Award-nominated actress Chita Rivera and by Rita Moreno, who won an Academy Award for her portrayal.

“I felt like I connected with her because I have a sassier side, but I think, too often, her character [is played] too sassy, too bold,” Colucci said. “I thought she was funny. I wanted to take those funny moments to give the audience a chance to laugh.”

Like Sosa, Colucci had limited stage experience and was a bit timid. Now, though, the award winner said she feels emboldened.

“I just never thought that I’d have the opportunity to go and win, so it was a very shocking feeling, especially being 16 at the time,” Colucci said.

She added, “I always planned to go to college to be in a jazz program or popular music program. I didn’t really see myself acting, but now I’m looking more into the dramatic arts, and I feel a lot more confident.”

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