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West Side Story - Broadway

The classic American musical returns to Broadway.

Tony Winner Karen Olivo Dishes on Getting Into an 'Empire State of Mind'

Tony Winner Karen Olivo Dishes on Getting Into an 'Empire State of Mind'
Karen Olivo
It’s going to be amazing to sing those lyrics right in the center of New York.

Tony winner Karen Olivo and her former In The Heights co-star Lin-Manuel Miranda are readying to wow the Broadway on Broadway concert crowd this weekend with the ever-popular Jay-Z and Alicia Keys song “Empire State of Mind,” and the actress cannot wait to salute New York in style.

“It’s going to be amazing to sing those lyrics right in the center of New York,” Olivo tells “I’ve performed at Broadway on Broadway before, and normally you’re in character, so this is going to be interesting, although I think I’m going to have to be some kind of character when I step up to sing that,” she says with a laugh, noting that rap isn't her typical musical style.

This won’t be the first time Olivo and Miranda take on Jay-Z together. They filmed a “Run this Town” spoof to promote the launch of the In the Heights tour last year. Again, the idea to take on the lauded rapper was Miranda’s. “I got a call from him asking if I’d want to do this. He’s my buddy, so he could pretty much get me to do anything,” Olivo says. “There’s always some nerves for Broadway on Broadway because it’s like, ‘Who’s coming out for the next season?’ but I have friends in every single show, so it’ll be fun." On the top of her must-see list? Drag-heavy show Priscilla Queen of the Desert. “Will Swenson is a good friend of mine. He’s a very gorgeous man and I’m sure he’ll make a gorgeous women!"

Olivo, who was forced to temporarily depart West Side Story in May due to a leg injury, is on the recovery path these days. “I’m shuffling about,” she says of her condition. “If I was in a straight play I would’ve been back at work three months ago. Could I have picked a harder show?” she jokes. Olivo doesn’t know for sure when she’ll don Anita’s purple dress again. “I like to push myself then pick up the pieces later, so everyone in my camp has decided whatever the doctor says is what I’ll ultimately do."

The actress did get a little slow dance practice with her husband [actor Matt Caplan] last weekend at Miranda’s wedding. “We were on the dance floor, but then I asked if we could just stand still and sway our upper bodies,” she laughs. Olivo also confesses she had no idea about Miranda’s surprise serenade of “L'Chaim” to his new bride, Vanessa. “That was like a dream come true for all of us because we’re such theater nerds,” she says of the performance. “I don’t know anybody except for Lin who would pull out a song from Fiddler on the Roof at their wedding and in a flash mob style. He’s such an innovator and constantly creating, even in his own personal life. I had the best time ever!”

Broadway on Broadway takes place in Times Square on Septmber 12 at 11:30AM, with Kelsey Grammer serving as host.

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