(born August 7, 1976)
Karen is an American stage and television actress and singer. In 2008, Olivo originated the role of Vanessa in In the Heights on Broadway. The following year, she won the 2009 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her performance as Anita in a revival of West Side Story. She is the first and only actor to win a Tony Award for a performance in West Side Story. From 2016 to 2017, Olivo portrayed the role of Angelica Schuyler in the Chicago production of Hamilton. At August 2019 Karen is leading on Broadway as Satine in Moulin Rouge!.
Olivo’s father is of Puerto Rican and Native American descent, and her mother is of Dominican and Chinese descent. She was born in New York City and raised in Bartow, Florida. She attended the Lois Cowles Harrison Center for the Visual and Performing Arts in nearby Lakeland, Florida, and later the University of Cincinnati – College-Conservatory of Music.
Until 2012, Olivo was married to Matt Caplan, most recently of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.
West Side Story
On March 18, 2013, Olivo announced on her website she was taking a break from acting, saying “with this knowledge I start a new chapter. I leave behind the actor and I start learning how to be me.”
On March 9, 2014 it was announced that Olivo would return to professional acting with New York City Center’s Encores! production of the Jonathan Larson musical tick, tick… BOOM! alongside fellow Hamilton alumni Lin-Manuel Miranda and Leslie Odom Jr. in June 2014 Off-Broadway.
On June 21, 2017 Olivo announced via Twitter that she would be leaving the Chicago production of the musical Hamilton, which she had joined on October 19, 2016, after August 6, 2017 to pursue teaching, stating that “I’m leaving the spotlight to make sure others find theirs”.
In 2009, Olivo received a Tony Award for her performance as Anita in the Broadway revival of West Side Story. She was also nominated for both a Drama Desk and an Outer Critic’s Circle Award for her critically acclaimed performance as Anita. She earned her second Astaire Award nomination for Best Female Dancer for her performance in West Side Story, after previously winning the same award in 2008 for her performance in In the Heights. She was contracted with West Side Story at the Palace through 2010. During the May 8, 2010 matinee performance of West Side Story, Olivo broke her foot. Anita standby Natalie Cortez performed the role until the show’s closure. Olivo took part in the world premiere of By The Way, Meet Vera Stark at Off-Broadway’s Second Stage Theatre. Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage, the play “draws upon the screwball films of the 1930s to take a funny and irreverent look at racial stereotypes in Hollywood.” On July 13, 2016, it was announced that Olivo would star as Angelica Schuyler in the Chicago production of Hamilton. 2019 – 2020 Karen has returned to Broadway as Satine in the Broadway Production of Moulin Rouge (the role she originated in Boston 2018)
Olivo had a recurring role in The Good Wife on CBS. She played fabulously wealthy law student Giada Cabrini, a potential love interest of firm partner Will Gardner (Josh Charles). Olivo was a series regular in the second season of NBC’s Harry’s Law, playing “hot shot lawyer” Cassie Reynolds hired by Kathy Bates’ character.
Olivo also appeared as Isabelle Perez, a woman who was unknowingly sterilized in the Law & Order episode “Birthright.” She also appears in the spin-off series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit as Jennifer Benitez in an episode titled “Loophole”. She later appeared in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit as Yelina Muñoz in an episode titled “October Sunrise”.
Olivo has had several roles in movies, including Adrift in Manhattan, Make Yourself at Home, The New Twenty, Shanghai Hotel, and The Orphan Killer.
Full Theatre Credits
|2005||Miracle Brothers||Jeca||Vineyard Theatre||Off-Broadway|
|2007||In the Heights||Vanessa||37 Arts Theatre||Off-Broadway|
|Hair||Sheila||Delacorte Theater||40th Anniversary Concert|
|2008||In the Heights||Vanessa||Richard Rodgers Theatre||Broadway|
|2009–10||West Side Story||Anita||Palace Theatre||Broadway|
|2011||By the Way, Meet Vera Stark||Anna Mae/Afua Assata Ejobo||Second Stage Theatre||Off-Broadway|
|2012||Murder Ballad||Sara||City Center – Stage II||Off-Broadway|
|2014||tick, tick… BOOM!||Susan/Karessa||New York City Center||Off-Broadway|
|2016||West Side Story||Anita||Hollywood Bowl||Concert Performance|
|2016–17||Hamilton||Angelica Schuyler||PrivateBank Theatre||Chicago|
|2018||Moulin Rouge!||Satine||Emerson Colonial Theatre||Boston/Pre-Broadway|
|2018||Fun Home||Alison Bechdel||Forward Theater||Regional|
|2019–20||Moulin Rouge!||Satine||Al Hirschfeld Theatre||Broadway|
Awards and Nominations
|2007||Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Ensemble Performance||In the Heights||Won|
|2008||Fred and Adele Astaire Award||Best Female Dancer||Won|
|2009||Tony Award||Best Featured Actress in a Musical||West Side Story||Won|
|Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical||Nominated|
|Drama League Award||Distinguished Performance||Nominated|
|Outer Critics Circle Award||Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical||Nominated|
|Fred and Adele Astaire Award||Best Female Dancer||Nominated|
|2019||IRNE Awards||Best Actress in a Musical||Moulin Rouge!||Nominated|
- Worland, Gayle (14 Nov 2014). “A change for Karen Olivo: Madison’s one and only resident Tony winner sings her story”. Wisconsin State Journal. Retrieved 11 August 2016.
- “Leads Announced for Chicago Hamilton” Playbill.com (July 13, 2016)
- “I will miss you, Chicago.” https://twitter.com/Karenolivo
- Karen Olivo Reveals Acting Departure, New Life Path
- The Broadway Star Who Got Away
- Tony Winner Karen Olivo Is “Starting Over,” Explains Actress in Lengthy Blog
- “Breaking News: Lin-Manuel Miranda & Karen Olivo to Star in tick, tick…BOOM! for Encores! Faust and Pump Boys Announced” Broadway World.com (March 9, 2014)
- Article on Olivo’s Tony Award win
- BroadwayWorld website
- Broken Foot Sidelines Tony Winner Karen Olivo from West Side Story | Broadway Buzz | Broadway.com
- Broadway Revival of West Side Story to Close in January; Olivo Will Not Return
- Stephanie J. Block, Karen Olivo and More Headline Off-Broadway’s By The Way, Meet Vera Stark | Broadway Buzz | Broadway.com
- Chicago’s ‘Hamilton’ and other cast members announced – Chicago Tribune
- Karen Olivo Joins Harry’s Law – Today’s News: Our Take | TVGuide.com