Karen Olivo

Karen Olivo (born August 7, 1976) is an American stage and television actress, theater educator, and singer.

Karen Olivo
Karen Olivo.jpg
Olivo in 2009
Born (1976-08-07) August 7, 1976 (age 44)
Alma materUniversity of Cincinnati – College-Conservatory of Music
OccupationActress, singer
Years active1998–present
(m. 2006; div. 2012)

James Uphoff
(m. 2014)

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.[2][3] In 2019, Olivo originated the lead role of Satine in the stage adaptation of Moulin Rouge! on Broadway, earning a nomination for the 2020 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical.

Early lifeEdit

Olivo was born on August 7, 1976 in the South Bronx, New York.[4] Olivo's father is of Puerto Rican and Native American descent, and her mother is of Dominican and Chinese descent. She was 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. She left school before her final year to join the original Broadway production of Rent.[4][5]


1997 – 2006: Early career and Broadway debutEdit

Olivo began her professional career in 1997 when she joined the original Broadway production of Rent. She joined as a replacement swing, also understudying the roles of Mimi and Maureen. The following year she joined the first national tour of Rent, dubbed the "Angel Tour," as a replacement swing once again. In late 1998, Olvio began playing Mimi on the tour, which she did until she left the show in January 1999. She moved back to New York City in 1999,[4] but did not receive any roles outside of a small part in As the World Turns before joining the regional try-out of the musical Brooklyn in 2003.[6][7] Before Brooklyn transferred to Broadway the following Fall, Olivo took part of a regional staging of Children of Eden and filmed guest roles for All My Children and Law & Order.[8] The musical Brooklyn open on Broadway in October 2004 and closed in June 2005.[9] Following its closure, Olivo joined the cast of the Brazilian-themed off-Broadway musical Miracle Brothers, which closed in October 2005.[10] The following year she had small roles in NBC's Conviction and the independent film Adrift in Manhattan, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2007.

2007 – 2012: Prominence on BroadwayEdit

In the HeightsEdit

In 2008, In the Heights opened on Broadway. Olivo starred as Vanessa, opposite Lin-Manuel Miranda.

West Side StoryEdit

In 2009, Olivo received a Tony Award for her performance as Anita in the Broadway revival of West Side Story.[11] 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.[12] During the May 8, 2010 matinee performance of West Side Story, Olivo broke her foot.[13] Anita standby Natalie Cortez performed the role until the show's closure.[14]

Olivo then 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."[15]

Film and televisionEdit

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.[16]

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 Make Yourself at Home, The New Twenty, Shanghai Hotel, and The Orphan Killer.

2013 – Present: Break from acting and return to theaterEdit

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."[17][18][19] During this period she moved to Madison, Wisconsin, where she taught classes for the UW-Madison theater department and became involved in the local theater scene, which included opening a private studio to coach young performers.[20]

She returned to professional acting the following year 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.[21][22]

On July 13, 2016, it was announced that Olivo would star as Angelica Schuyler in the Chicago production of Hamilton.[23] She was part of the cast from October 19, 2016 until August 6, 2017. She stated that she intended to pursue teaching after leaving the production, stating that "I'm leaving the spotlight to make sure others find theirs". In February 2018, Olivo played Florence Vassy in the Kennedy Center's revival of the musical Chess.

On July 25, 2019, Olivo starred in the premiere of the Broadway production of "Moulin Rouge! The Musical" in New York City. She continued to perform her role in the show at the Al Hirschfeld Theater for an open-ended run.[24] On October 15, 2020, she was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical.[25]

Personal lifeEdit

Olivo is married to Jim Uphoff, with whom she co-parents two children. Olivo and Uphoff, a marketing manager and former New York theater sound technician, married in September 2014.[20][4] Until 2012, Olivo was married to Broadway actor Matt Caplan.

In 2013, while taking a break from acting, Olivo moved to Madison, Wisconsin where she and Uphoff share a home she calls her "home base".[4] Both she and her husband have family in Madison.[26] She has previously lived in Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Los Angeles.[4][20][22]

Theatre creditsEdit

Year(s) Production Role Location Category
1997-99 Rent Swing Nederlander Theatre:

August 1997 – March 1998

Broadway replacement
US national tour:

April – November 1998

First national tour replacement
Mimi US national tour:

November 1998 – January 1999

2003-05 Brooklyn Faith The New Denver Civic Center:

May – June 2003

Original Denver production

(pre-Broadway tryout)

Plymouth Theatre:

September 2004 – June 2005

Original Broadway production
2004 Children of Eden Yohah Ford's Theatre:

March – June 2004

Washington, D.C. revival
2005 Miracle Brothers Jeca Vineyard Theatre:

August – October 2005

Original Off-Broadway production
2007-08 In the Heights Vanessa 37 Arts Theatre:

January – July 2007

Original Off-Broadway production
Richard Rodgers Theatre:

February – November 2008

Original Broadway production
2007 Hair Sheila Delacorte Theater 40th Anniversary Concert
2009–10 West Side Story Anita Palace Theatre:

February 2009 – May 2010

Broadway revival
2011 By the Way, Meet Vera Stark Anna Mae/Afua Assata Ejobo Second Stage Theatre:

April – June 2011

Original Off-Broadway production
2012 Murder Ballad Sara City Center - Stage II:

October – December 2012

Original Off-Broadway production
2014 tick, tick... BOOM! Susan/Karessa New York City Center:

June 2014

Off-Broadway/Concert Staging
2015 Public Works: The Odyssey Penelope Delacorte Theater:

September 2015

Concert Staging
2016 West Side Story Anita Hollywood Bowl:

July 2016

Concert Staging
2016–17 Hamilton Angelica Schuyler PrivateBank Theatre:

September 2016 – August 2017

Regional Chicago production
2018 Chess Florence JFK Center for the Performing Arts:

February 2018

Concert Staging
2018–20 Moulin Rouge! Satine Emerson Colonial Theatre:

June – August 2018

Original Boston production

(Pre-Broadway tryout)

Al Hirschfeld Theatre:

July 2019 – Present

Original Broadway production
2018 Fun Home Alison Bechdel Forward Theater:

November 2018

Regional Madison production

Awards and nominationsEdit

Year Award Category Work Result
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
2020 Tony Award Best Actress in a Musical Pending
Drama League Award Distinguished Performance Nominated
Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding Actress in a Musical Honoree
Grammy Award Best Musical Theater Album Nominated


  1. ^ Worland, Gayle (14 November 2014). "A change for Karen Olivo: Madison's one and only resident Tony winner sings her story". Wisconsin State Journal. Retrieved 11 August 2016.
  2. ^ "Leads Announced for Chicago Hamilton" Playbill.com (July 13, 2016)
  3. ^ "I will miss you, Chicago." https://twitter.com/Karenolivo
  4. ^ a b c d e f Kaufman, Joanne (2019-07-09). "A Star of 'Moulin Rouge! The Musical' Surveys Her Past". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-04-07.
  5. ^ "Karen Olivo – Broadway Cast & Staff | IBDB". www.ibdb.com. Retrieved 2020-04-07.
  6. ^ "Inside Playbill Gallery". Playbill. Retrieved 2020-04-07.
  7. ^ Gans, Andrew (May 7, 2003). "Broadway-Bound Musical, Brooklyn, Opens May 7 in Denver". Playbill. Retrieved 2020-04-07.
  8. ^ "Children of Eden at Ford's Theatre 2004". www.abouttheartists.com. Retrieved 2020-04-07.
  9. ^ "Brooklyn Broadway @ Plymouth Theatre - Tickets and Discounts". Playbill. Retrieved 2020-04-07.
  10. ^ "Miracle Brothers | TheaterMania". www.theatermania.com. Retrieved 2020-04-07.
  11. ^ Article on Olivo's Tony Award win
  12. ^ BroadwayWorld website
  13. ^ Broken Foot Sidelines Tony Winner Karen Olivo from West Side Story | Broadway Buzz | Broadway.com
  14. ^ Broadway Revival of West Side Story to Close in January; Olivo Will Not Return
  15. ^ Stephanie J. Block, Karen Olivo and More Headline Off-Broadway’s By The Way, Meet Vera Stark | Broadway Buzz | Broadway.com
  16. ^ Karen Olivo Joins Harry's Law - Today's News: Our Take | TVGuide.com
  17. ^ Karen Olivo Reveals Acting Departure, New Life Path
  18. ^ The Broadway Star Who Got Away
  19. ^ Tony Winner Karen Olivo Is "Starting Over," Explains Actress in Lengthy Blog
  20. ^ a b c gworland@madison.com, 608-252-6188, GAYLE WORLAND. "A change for Karen Olivo: Madison's one and only resident Tony winner sings her story". Wiscnews.com. Retrieved 2020-04-07.
  21. ^ "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)
  22. ^ a b McElroy, Steven (2014-06-30). "The Broadway Star Who Got Away". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-04-07.
  23. ^ Chicago's 'Hamilton' and other cast members announced - Chicago Tribune
  24. ^ New York Times 7/25/19
  25. ^ Libbey, Peter (October 15, 2020). "Full List of the 2020 Tony Award Nominees". NYTimes.com. Retrieved October 17, 2020.
  26. ^ "Broadway star Karen Olivo comes home to do 'Fun Home'". AP NEWS. 2018-10-28. Retrieved 2020-04-07.

External linksEdit