Manhattan Girl, 11, Shines On National Stages In Les Misérables Tour

January 25, 2024 0 By JohnValbyNation

MANHATTAN, IL — It would seem to anyone that Olivia O’Sullivan has done this hundreds of times before. FaceTiming with a reporter from a hotel room in Nebraska, the 11-year-old Manhattan girl is youthful but polished, a seeming pro coming into her own.

Olivia has burst onto stages worldwide and now across the country, as she chases her dream of musical theatre. Now playing the role of “Young Cosette,” Olivia is traveling the country with the national tour of “Les Misérables”, only her third time appearing in a professional production.

The national tour of “Les Misérables” takes her to 22 cities; at the time of the interview, they were in their 11th city, and have since traveled to four more. It’s a whirlwind and an adventure for Olivia, her mother AnnMarie Lerner-O’Sullivan and now Olivia’s younger brother, Tyler.

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It’s a bonding experience unlike any other for an already tight-knit family, as they support their star.

“We’ve just been having a lot of fun,” Olivia told Patch. “It’s really amazing having my brother on tour now. We’re homeschooling so my brother can be with me. My family except my dad flies in sometimes, and then we’re family.”

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Performing six days a week in eight shows—two on Saturdays—and the seventh spent traveling, the days can be long, but rewarding. The lifestyle is something she’s become accustomed to—she previously played the role of Marta in a global tour of “The Sound of Music.” Prior to that, she starred in “The Sound of Music” at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire.

It’s all happened so fast, said Lerner-O’Sullivan. Early musical instruction began for Olivia when she was 5, at Music Connection in Orland Park. The family then moved to Manhattan, and they began looking closer to home.

Olivia began guitar lessons at Down Home Guitars in Frankfort, before switching to singing lessons. She was months into her vocal coaching when her instructors began nudging Lerner-O’Sullivan that her daughter was an exceptional talent.

“It’s kind of crazy, mind-blowing,” she said. “When she was really little, she was always very outgoing, loved to be around people, do skits around people. Everyone would tell me, ‘she needs an agent.’”

“You think they’re special, because they’re your kid. But then when you have so many other people tell you that. … Everything really kind of happened fast.”

They had professional headshots taken when Olivia was 9.

“We got headshots on a Sunday, by Wednesday, she signed with an agent,” Lerner-O’Sullivan said.

Within months, she had landed the role at the Marriott Theatre. Six months later, she was traveling to New York to audition for the global tour.

“We thought that was going to be a needle in a haystack,” Lerner-O’Sullivan said. “We weren’t even home from the airport, and they had called and offered her that role.”

The tour took Olivia and her mother to venues in places like the Philippines and India. When it wrapped, they’d been home just two weeks when they got the call for Olivia to return to New York to audition for the national tour.

Lerner-O’Sullivan was stunned when she landed it.

“You cannot wrap your head around it,” she said. “

But Olivia had a hunch she had gotten it, even before she got the call.

“You get that good feeling when you’re in an audition,” Olivia said. “Those three times, I felt that good feeling, like I was going to get it, but I wasn’t saying anything because you don’t want to put it into existence. You don’t want to jinx it.”

It was all a bit unbelievable to Lerner-O’Sullivan.

“She has auditioned hundreds of times—you don’t get everything, but the chances of going to New York twice in a row, and getting both parts,” she said, “Holy cow, how did that happen.”

As part of adjusting to the national tour with so many shows, the family had to learn how to juggle Olivia’s schooling. Manhattan District 114 schools had been very accommodating and helpful in her earlier roles, Lerner-O’Sullivan stressed, and she wouldn’t have been able to manage the roles and schoolwork without their support.

“She stayed in school, the principals and the teachers have been absolutely amazing,” she said. “She does have a work permit. Legally, she is allowed to work. They worked out a schedule with her. They were gracious, giving us things ahead of time, or letting us turn things in late.”

As the demands on Olivia’s time increased and travel called, they found keeping her in traditional schooling more difficult.

“We tried for a while,” Lerner-O’Sullivan said. “Everyone was amazing—all the teachers were so supportive, but it just got to be too much.”

Lerner-O’Sullivan recently made the decision to home-school Olivia, allowing them more flexibility to travel but also ensuring that Olivia gets direct, personalized instruction. A teacher before she gave birth to Olivia and Tyler, Lerner-O’Sullivan was willing and able to take on her own role. Now younger Tyler, 9, has also joined them on tour and is also home-schooled.

Their days are shaped a bit differently than other kids’. Their nights are a bit late, wrapping up back at the hotel by midnight or one. They put in four hours of school each day, before Olivia has to be back at the theater.

It’s not for everyone, but for Olivia, it’s the beginning of everything she wants.

“I really liked acting, really liked singing,” she said, of before she began acting professionally. “When I got into professional acting, I was really happy because I was doing what I really liked, and what I really loved. That’s just really big—that you get to do what want to do.”

By law, Olivia’s earnings are put into a Coogan account, a special blocked trust fund account found at a bank, credit union or brokerage firm. In order for her parents to withdraw from it, a judge would have to grant them access, Lerner-O’Sullivan said. The money will be there for Olivia if at some point she wants to buy a home—”A car!” Olivia shouted from the background. With the i’s dotted and the t’s crossed, she gets to watch her daughter shine in the spotlight.

Olivia alternates in roles as Little Cosette/Young Eponine, her main number being “Castle on a Cloud.” She might be missing out on some more typical childhood memories, but she’s making her own each day on and offstage. Ask her about the broom she uses onstage—a critical part of her role—and a prop she and her role’s counterpart have affectionately nicknamed Straw, Stick, Big Bad Wolf, or the rehearsal stick, Brick.

Her creativity is sparked by the stage, both in her roles and her friendships formed. She misses home—her dad, friends and her nearly 2-year-old golden retriever, Marta—but she keeps that in check like a seasoned pro.

“Sometimes it’s hard when you get a tour, and you have to be away from family that you love, be away from your house. Be far away from that,” Olivia said. “It’s kind of hard I don’t get to see my dog, really sad to be apart. But we know that in the future we’ll be back together, and we’ll have so much fun.”

Olivia said her dream would be to someday play young Elsa or young Anna in a production of “Frozen.” As an adult, she’d love to play the part of Mother Abbess in “The Sound of Music.” Lerner-O’Sullivan said it’s a remarkable journey she gets to share with her daughter.

“I feel like it’s already changed everything.”

Find out more about the national tour of “Les Misérables,” including future show dates and locations, and ticket prices.

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