Hand-picked by Gloria Estefan to play her younger self in On Your Feet, it’s clear that Madison Elizabeth Lagares has a bright future ahead. After making her Broadway debut as Young Gloria, she now joins the newest class in School of Rock the Musical. Her vivacious energy is contagious and we had a great time talking about her career and what it’s like to be a kid on Broadway.
What was the first moment you fell in love with performing and knew you wanted to do it professionally?
I loved performing since I was 3. My parents got me this CD to Phantom of the Opera and I would always be listening to it and I wanted to do that one day.
Can you tell us about your journey to Broadway – what was the audition process like for On Your Feet and School of Rock?
I wanted to be on Broadway since forever. When I auditioned for On Your Feet, I was supposed to be older, 11 or 12, but my agent called and said, “there is an audition for this wonderful Broadway show called On Your Feet and I just want Madison to try out for it.” I went that day, I wasn’t prepared. They gave me the tape recordings for the song and I practiced them while I was waiting to get called in. I was so nervous. It wasn’t my first Broadway audition– I had gotten callbacks before, but this was the real deal. I went inside, sang my songs and one the music directors told me, “you kind of look like Gloria Estefan.” “Do you say that to all the people you see?” I asked. He replied “no, I have a feeling about this one.” So when I had a callback, he said, “I told you so.”
That was my audition process for On Your Feet. We didn’t have to do that much choreography and at the time I did not know how to dance. Natalie Caroncho and Hector Masonet both taught me how to do my shoulders and waist and how to not fling my arms around every time, and then I kept on auditioning for more. When On Your Feet ended I realized that there were more auditions for School of Rock, so I went in for Tomika. You have to audition for Shonelle and they kind of fit them in to be either Mason, Shonelle, or all the other people and I realized that. When I went into the audition room, I sang my song and I did the lines and I was really nervous and I got a callback the next few days and I was like, “oh, my gosh,” but then I realized it was for dancing and I knew that dancing is not my strong suit – especially jumping and hip‑hop and lots of weird choreography. I mostly did Latin in On Your Feet. I thought I flunked it. I mean, I honestly thought, “oh, no, this is the end for me,” and then I got a callback, which was really exciting. Now we are working on the choreography. My choreography is much better. I got a callback for Shonelle the backup singer and Tomika understudy.
Do you have a favorite memory from behind the scenes of On Your Feet?
Yes, I do. Junior [Jose Rosario] is a really good friend of mine. He is really funny and very kid‑friendly and one day when we were backstage we saw this video of fake slapping. Junior is like, “hey, you want to do that video?” So he taught me how to do it. They recorded it from an angle on the camera. It looked like I was actually smacking him, so it was like we were fighting backstage. You could watch it on my Instagram.
Had you seen the School of Rock movie or Broadway show before you landed the part?
Yes. A year ago I saw the show. I didn’t know that I was going to be part of it. I really, really, really liked it I saw it with the original cast. I was so amazed and I wanted to be in this Broadway show one day and now my dream came true.
Which number are you most excited to perform in School of Rock?
“Teacher’s Pet” and I really like doing “You’re in the Band” because we get to do our small audition. Marcy gets to sing “Tomorrow” from Annie and I get to sing the “Star‑Spangled Banner.” It’s really funny and Dewey teaches us stuff and he does really funny imitations of us.
Who do you normally rehearse with in the rehearsal studio?
We work with the new cast. There are six other kids and we also work with the dance captain, the musical director, some of the stage managers and the swing dance. We worked with Ellie Kim, Colin Lauri, and Sophia Kekllas.
It’s probably a lot of work for them as well..
Yes. They go into the place not knowing what role they are going to do, if they are going to do it that day, and it’s kind of they are in the dressing room waiting. There is a call, “oh my gosh you are going to go on for so‑and‑so tonight” and they have to get ready really fast and they have to play so many roles. It’s crazy. It’s really impressive.
Did you ever have that with On Your Feet – you weren’t supposed to be in that show, but then you had to go on last minute because the other person couldn’t?
Actually, yes. It was mostly the boys that did that. I mean, there was a time where Amaris [Sanchez] went on vacation and I went in for her.
What was the biggest challenge of doing On Your Feet?
I like everything in On Your Feet. I liked the dancing. I liked the acting mostly because it was really surprising. It was my first Broadway show and I was like, “oh, my gosh, this is a dream come true.” When I saw Ana [Villafañe] for the first time, it was crazy because she was doing all this different story telling. I mean, it’s hard to play Gloria Estefan because there is a lot of stuff in Gloria’s life that may not have happened in Ana’s life. So she has to act that out and it’s really impressive. The way she acts with her face, the way she does the crying – it’s just beautiful.
Did you meet Gloria before you started performances?
Yes. The first time I saw the show, we saw it with Alex [Suarez] and Fabi [Aguirre]. For the five minute call, the stage manager said, “come in, somebody wants to see you” and so me and Amaris are like, “okay.” We figured it’s going to be one of the stage managers and the director and we go in and there is just these random people, and then Gloria and Emilio pop out from under the desk. My heart stopped a moment. Oh, my gosh. Then we introduced ourselves. I thought it was the casting director that chose me, but Gloria was like, “I chose you personally.” My heart melted.
If you could pick a celebrity to come see you in the show, who would you pick?
I would choose Christina Aguilera. I can’t say Whitney Houston, but if she was here, I would have gladly have her come to see my show. Celine Dion or Taylor Swift. I love her songs.
If you had your own band, what would it be called and what instrument would you play?
It would probably be “Singers for Life” or something like that and I would play my voice. That would my instrument, or I would do the piano.
Do you know how to play any instruments?
I play by ear, so whenever I hear a note, I can find it on the piano and I play it and I start playing a song. Yes, I am really impressed by me.
What is the best part about being on Broadway?
The friends you make and that you get to share a bond with them. Even though when you go in there, at first they are random people. When I was in On Your Feet, I thought we were just going to be friends and you know be calm, stay calm, but we were like family. I think that’s the best part and I have a feeling that it’s going to happen in School of Rock too.
If you could be stuck in an elevator with any Broadway star, who would it be?
Idina Menzel, Kristin Chenoweth or probably Ben Platt– he is really cool. Oh and Sierra Boggess.
What is your dream role?
Nina in In the Heights or Christine Daae in Phantom of the Opera.
When you are not on Broadway, what are you usually doing?
I do cabarets, I audition for a lot of stuff, especially when I have all that downtime.
What do you like to do for fun?
I love, love slime a lot. If that was the only toy I could ever have, it would be slime. I either play with slime or I play with my sister. We do small plays. A few days ago we played Wicked. Bella was Glinda. I, of course, was Elphaba
How do you balance school and the show?
There are only Wednesday matinees, so on Wednesday we don’t go to school. We either have tutors or we don’t go to school at all. The rest of the days that we only have night shows, we go to school. My mom either picks me up 30 minutes early so that we can get dressed, get in the car, and we have to rush out.
Marie (Madison’s Mom): On days she has late shows, she doesn’t go to school the next morning. The school works with us– they were great with On Your Feet because she would literally miss two days of school.
But this is a more intense schedule because they have like eight shows a week and On Your Feet I only did four shows a week.
What’s your favorite show on Broadway right now?
Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen. I love all Broadway shows, but Hamilton is probably my favorite.
Do you have a favorite book?
What’s your favorite dressing room snack?
It has to be something healthy because you can’t go on the show with soda. It gives you gas or probably it will and it has a lot of sugar so you either go on really excited and then you will crash like literally before the second act or during the first act. So I probably would choose something protein, like eggs or salad. In On Your Feet I used to go to Europa. It’s right across the street and I would always order a pasta with marinara sauce and I would add vegetables like tomatoes, spinach, celery, all that stuff.
What’s your favorite thing about NYC?
I am probably really weird for saying this, but I like the smells. They are different. It’s not like in Florida where the only smells are like – beautifulness. For some reason every time I go out in New York City, it kind of reminds me of, I don’t know, like cupcakes and rainbows when to other people it just reminds them of garbage.
Can you show us your favorite emoji?