A Star of ‘Moulin Rouge! The Musical’ Surveys Her Past


If mates and colleagues had been requested to word-associate concerning the actress Karen Olivo, they could moderately come out with “warm,” or “down to earth” or “dedicated” and even “curry” (she makes it a couple of occasions per week to clamors of “encore”). But right here is one phrase they’d by no means point out to explain Ms. Olivo: minimalist.

How little, how little or no these individuals know her. Have they gotten a load of Ms. Olivo’s one-bedroom sublet on the 61st flooring of a brand new condominium growth in Times Square? The condo, a pristine expanse of Italian marble, wide-plank oak flooring and floor-to-ceiling home windows, incorporates little greater than a mattress, a bench, a desk, a yoga mat, a small couch, a small bookcase and a small canine named Eddie.

Actually, the pared-down aesthetic is a complete new factor for Ms. Olivo, 42, who performs a cabaret performer and courtesan in “Moulin Rouge! The Musical,” the Broadway adaptation of the 2001 Baz Luhrmann film, which opens July 25.

“I’m that person who goes to Goodwill and always picks up a side table,” mentioned Ms. Olivo, whose Broadway credit embrace “Rent,” “In the Heights” and the 2009 revival of “West Side Story,” for which she received a Tony for her efficiency as Anita.

Six years in the past, Ms. Olivo moved from New York to Madison, Wis., to be along with her boyfriend, now her husband, Jim Uphoff, the advertising and marketing product supervisor for a corporation that makes lighting boards for theaters. There, Ms. Olivo lives in a farmhouse full of antiques, items of artwork (some of them do-it-yourself), souvenirs and posters from her many reveals and, sure, tons of facet tables.

When she isn’t out of city for work, she’s within the basement studio the place she sketches, paints and does handiwork. “I’m by nature a nester,” she mentioned. “I have a lot of clutter in general.”

This previous April, simply earlier than returning to New York to start rehearsals for “Moulin Rouge!” (she has the position performed by Nicole Kidman within the film), Ms. Olivo packed up a number of packing containers of books and blankets, paints and brushes, an easel, a stitching machine, knitting needles, yarn and crocheting provides. When she gave the nod, her husband would ship them.

She additionally made contact with an inside designer. When she gave the nod, he would provide you with a flooring plan and begin hanging photos and selecting furnishings and equipment.

The cartons are nonetheless sitting by the door in Madison. The inside decorator continues to be ready by the cellphone.

“As I began living in this space, I realized I had never before afforded myself a sleek New York experience,” Ms. Olivo mentioned. “And then I started rehearsal and didn’t have time to do any furnishing. And then I realized that it feels like a clean slate. There are so many things happening at the theater, and when I come home I can download and be like, ‘O.K., everything is O.K.’ This is a very serene place.”



Occupation: Actor

On a transparent day: “I know this sounds really creepy, but because of the view in my apartment, I asked my husband to get me binoculars. I’ll stand at the window, call him on my cellphone and give him the traffic report, like, ‘The traffic on the George Washington Bridge is moving rather well today.’ It’s our little private joke.”


Born within the South Bronx and raised in Florida, Ms. Olivo left school — the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music — earlier than commencement in 1998, when she obtained a job as an understudy and swing in “Rent.”

“I feel like most of my career I’ve lived in very humble places,” mentioned Ms. Olivo, who can see some of these very modest abodes of her previous from her present condo’s floor-to-ceiling home windows, together with the “La Bohème”-worthy hovel on West 49th that she occupied when she moved again to city for “Rent.”

“Now I have an infrastructure around me, like a doorman who is personable,” she mentioned. “At no point am I going to have to worry about something breaking and me having to call a fix-it- person.”

She added: “Having a great building with everything facilitates a state of mind in which I can throw everything at my job.”

There’s additionally a fitness center, a steam room and doggy day take care of the charmingly rumbustious Eddie.

But even essentially the most well-equipped buildings don’t have every part. Ms. Olivo, who has a big backyard again residence in Madison, has grown accustomed to provide and herbs simply exterior the again door. In Manhattan, she has created her personal model of a vegetable patch on her kitchen counter, the place she is efficiently cultivating basil and tomatoes, although the dill has, to date, not been performing to expectations.

“It’s don’t know what’s happening with that,” Ms. Olivo mentioned. “It’s very sad.”

Nearby is an air air purifier and humidifier that additionally does aromatherapy. “This is something I can’t be here without,” she mentioned, including tactfully: “I’m not going to compare the air quality of Manhattan to the air quality of Madison. It’s just very different.”

Despite her newfound appreciation for touring gentle and residing unencumbered, a necessity continues to be a necessity. Ms. Olivo introduced a bust of Don Quixote to New York, partially as a result of one of the primary reveals she ever noticed on the Hirschfeld Theater, now the house of “Moulin Rouge!,” was “Man of La Mancha.”

She additionally got here to city accompanied by her Tony Award, “but not for the reason one would think,” Ms. Olivo mentioned, clearly involved that the statuette’s presence on the small eating desk looks like a boast.

“Once you have already achieved the thing you set out to achieve, you can just do the work,” she mentioned. “So I bring the Tony with me to remind me, ‘You’ve done the work; you already have one of those. Be true to your art. Be true to the show. Everything is fine.’”

When Ms. Olivo gazes out the window, every part is greater than nice. “I’ll sit here in the morning with my coffee and find something in the distance and try to focus on it. It’s very soothing,” she mentioned.

“I’ve never before lived in a place with a view like this. If you’re ever going to do it, why not do it here in New York City?”

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