By Amy Wenk

Vanessa Olivarez, best known as a finalist on season two of “American Idol,” has once again returned to the stage.

Olivarez, a native of Atlanta, has joined the cast of the hit comedy “Peachtree Battle,” Atlanta’s longest running theatrical production. She plays the role of Candler Habersham, a Buckhead socialite-in-training who must deal with the constant quips of a disapproving mother.

“Comedy is something I’ve wanted to do for quite some time,” said Olivarez. “[Candler] is a super fun role to play. It is definitely allowing me to be creative and take some risks as an actress, which I really like. I am having an absolute blast.”

Although new to comedy, Olivarez is a veteran of the stage.

“I like to say I kind of came out of the womb acting,” said the 27-year-old. “I’ve always been a little bit of a dramatic person.”

After spending the majority of her youth singing and acting, Olivarez auditioned for “American Idol’s” second season in 2002 with a rendition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” She excelled in auditions and was voted into the top 12, where she was the first to be eliminated from the 12 finalists.

Since American Idol, Olivarez has worked on a number of projects. She spent seven months in the role of Tracey Turnblad in the Toronto production of “Hairspray.” In 2005, she was nominated for a Dora Award — the Canadian equivalent of a Tony Award — for Outstanding Performance by a Lead Actress for this role.

Olivarez also landed in the Canadian top 10 chart with her hit single “The One.” Prior to that, she was the original lead singer of the country band Sugarland and co-wrote the group’s hit single. In addition, Olivarez has been lead singer for groups, South 70 and Butterfly Stitch.

Peachtree Battle playwright and director John Gibson said he is excited to add Olivarez to the cast.

“She really is like a young Bette Midler,” Gibson said. “She has an incredible sense of comedy and timing. There is a level of talent that she brings that we are very fortunate to come across.”

He added that although she is the ninth actress cast as Candler, Olivarez is making the character her own.

“It will be something fun for the audiences who have seen it before, as well as the ones that haven’t,” Gibson said. “It is such a great interpretation of the character, they will feel like it’s the first time they have seen the show.”

“Peachtree Battle,” written by John Gibson and Anthony Morris, will be performed at the Ansley Park Playhouse until May 18. This is the 41st extension of the play, which has been running for more than six years.

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