Back from Broadway

After nearly a decade in New York, Britta Ollmann returns to the theater scene that made her a child star

Britta Ollmann was a familiar face in the Twin Cities before she even learned to drive, having begun acting at the Children’s Theatre Company at age 8. Now 25, the Forest Lake native is taking to a Twin Cities stage this month for the first time since leaving for Broadway in 2003. She stars at the Guthrie Theater in Violet, a musical by Theater Latté Da about a young white woman who travels to the Deep South during the civil rights era and, in being an outsider, finds the courage to be herself—a journey of self-discovery to which Ollmann can relate.

You were in some plum plays on Broadway: A Catered Affair, etc. What made you decide to come home?
I went to New York without any expectations, except to see if I could be a twentysomething there, singing and dancing, and still keep my head on straight. But it’s easy out there to let your ambition or how you feel about your talent seep into personal relationships. Being here is an experiment to see what this business is like outside of New York—to experience the Twin Cities as a grownup.

What was it like being a child actress, singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow then doing your math homework?
I was a celebrity in the sense that I was the girl who was never in school. I’d be out for three months at a time and it was awkward, so the CTC was my high school. A lot of us there missed our proms, so we threw our own prom at the theater and company members were our dates.

The music of Violet was composed by Jeanine Tesori. Can we expect the same kind of rock-blues-gospel mix that she created for Caroline, or Change?
Absolutely, and yet there is still that sense of grand musical theater. I am excited to sing some of the more country-type stuff. I think I could have some twang, though maybe I’m just kidding myself.

What’s your take on jazz hands: cool or not cool?
Very cool. In the privacy of your own house.