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Karen Olivo was born in Manhattan, New York, on August 7, 1976. They are a Tony Award-winning actress known for originating the role of Vanessa in Lin-Manuel Miranda's In the Heights and their TV role as Cassie Reynolds on NBC's Harry's Law.
Olivo was raised in Bartow, Florida. They attended The Lois Cowles Harrison Center for the Visual and Performing Arts in Lakeland and went on to study at The University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music in Ohio. After starring as Mimi Marquez in the national tour of Rent and serving as an understudy and swing for the Broadway production, they officially made their Broadway debut as Faith in the 2004 premiere of Brooklyn at the Plymouth Theatre (which was renamed the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre during its run). They next made their Off-Broadway debut with Miracle Brottheirs at the Vineyard Theatre in 2005.
Olivo's big break came after being cast as Vanessa in Lin-Manuel Miranda's hit musical In the Heights. They originated the role off Broadway in 2007 (receiving a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Ensemble Performance alongside their cast) and went on to be part of the original Broadway company at the Richard Rodgers Theatre from spring 2008. They would play the role from February through November of that year. They were then cast as Anita in the 2009 Broadway revival of West Side Story, eventually winning a Tony Award in the category of Best Featured Actress In A Musical and later reprising the role at The Hollywood Bowl in 2016.
Following their Tony win, Olivo returned off Broadway and starred in Second Stage Theater's 2011 production of Lynn Nottage's By the Way, Meet Vera Stark, Manhattan Theatre Club's 2012 production of Murder Ballad, and New York City Center's 2014 Encores! production of tick, tick... BOOM! opposite Lin-Manuel Miranda and Leslie Odom, Jr. From 2016 to 2017, they starred as Angelica Schuyler in the Chicago production of Miranda's musical Hamilton.
On screen, Olivo is best known as a series regular on NBC's Harry's Law, starring as the young lawyer Cassie Reynolds opposite Kathy Bates from 2011 to 2012. They were also cast in the recurring role of Giada Cabrini on CBS's The Good Wife in 2010 and have guest starred in Law & Order, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
From July to August 2018, they originated the role of Satine in the world premiere of Moulin Rouge! The Musical, which reopened the Emerson Colonial Theatre in Boston. They reprised the role on Broadway at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre from June 28, 2019 to March 11, 2020.