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Writing  by Kaitlyn Hardy

Photography by Justin Negard

At only 14 years old, Bedford’s Madison Lagares has already starred in two Broadway musicals and has numerous film and television credits under her belt. Plus, she’s a singer/songwriter who is working on her debut album. And she’s just getting started.

At age five, Madison Lagares walked up to the Jedi better known as Liam Neeson and said, “Hey, you’re a Jedi!” After chatting a bit, their conversation ended with Neeson asking for a picture with her. But that’s just a regular work day for Lagares, Bedford’s 14-year-old Broadway, movie and TV star. 

Since she was a child, Lagares was on the track to stardom. A mini thespian from day one, she constantly acted out characters, performing one-woman shows and hosting concerts in her living room. She then moved from household performances to the stage – landing roles in Manhattan theaters and school plays. 

At five years old, Lagares played the scarecrow in a regional theater production of “The Wizard of Oz” in Manhattan. During a performance, an agent recognized her potential for film and television and asked to represent Lagares. That same year, she landed two minor film roles. And the rest, as they say, is history. 

Before the age of 10, Lagares had her Equity card and had appeared as background characters in major films such as “A Walk Among the Tombstones” with Liam Neeson (yes, this was the set of the legendary picture), “The Intern” with Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway and “Manhattan Night” with Adrien Brody, as well as in the TV shows “Law and Order,” “Blindspot” and “Search Party.”

Finding her voice

On top of her impressive acting resume, Lagares also has a career in music – a love she has fostered since before she was even born. 

“When I was in the womb, I was always kicking around,” she says. “But whenever my mom played something like classical music, I always calmed down. Music has always been a part of my life.” 

Last April, Lagares signed a record deal with Concierge Records, and she’s currently working on an album that features a mix of covers and original songs. She released her first original song, “In the Meadow,” on March 7. The song tracks the emotions one feels “when they feel like they’re getting towards the end of a relationship with somebody, and you don’t know if it’s going to work out.” 

Even at 14 years old, Lagares finds solace in writing about the overwhelmingness of being a teenager and the heartbreak young people can face in relationships, both romantic and platonic.

“It’s just easy to write about it because as a teenager, it happens, and putting it onto paper is a lot better than keeping it inside – it’s a very therapeutic thing.” 

In addition to writing her own songs, Lagares enjoys covering songs and remastering them to display her musical expertise. 

“I’ll be sent the original track, the demo track and the lyrics for a song, and I’ll listen to it a couple times,” she says. That’s when the wheels in Lagares’ brain start turning, and she begins thinking, “Okay, I’m gonna change this verse up here; I’m gonna scratch this verse all together; I’m gonna add a new one; I can add a little guitar here or there, a different melody—I can really do something with this song.” 

The first song she released was a cover of “Finding Wonderland” from the musical “Wonderland.” 

“My producer sent the song to Janet Decall who played the original character on Broadway,” says Lagares. “She came back to me and was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is amazing!” 

Lagares has performed at cabarets with other up-and-coming musicians, in a solo concert and even in front of tens of thousands of people at a baseball game. 

“On my 12th birthday, I sang ‘God Bless America’ at Yankee Stadium,” Lagares remembers. “My mom said it was going to be a chill performance, but I walked out and saw that it was sold out! I was nervous for a fraction of a second, but then I just did it. The best part was when all 45,000 people were singing along with me towards the end.”

From screen to stage 

Lagares is no stranger to the spotlight, having performed on Broadway since age nine when she played a young Gloria Estefan in “On Your Feet.” She stayed in that role for two years, then, in 2018 she joined the cast of “School of Rock” as Shonelle and the understudy of Tomika. 

Lagares found the transition from film to Broadway easy, as acting on stage was like “being at home.”

“In film, everything is so miniscule,” she explains. “Everything’s in the face and the small motions that you do. But when you’re on Broadway, you have to amplify everything to its fullest, and little kids amplify everything anyways.” 

Lagares brings her outgoing stage presence into her everyday life. She’s a simultaneously bubbly and down-to-earth person, donning an ear-to-ear smile and shooting playful finger guns. But if  being a teenager with an impressive acting and singing resume isn’t unique enough, Lagares is also a teen without a cellphone (go ahead, take a few moments to grasp that concept). 

“I know it’s surprising, but I personally don’t think I need one right now,” Lagares says. Since I don’t have a phone, I’m not always on social media or stuff like that. I have time to read –  I love reading.”   

It’s a balancing act

Lagares’ latest theater endeavor is an upcoming musical based on a classic song from the mid 1908s. It was scheduled to go into workshop two weeks after the COVID-19 pandemic began, and Lagares is one of the lead characters. “I’ve done the reading, next is the workshop in September, then the previews, off-Broadway, and then hopefully Broadway.” 

Although this musical has been slated as her next show for several years, Lagares was recently provided another exciting opportunity. “Wonderland” composer Frank Wildhorn asked her to audition for the starring role in his upcoming Broadway musical, which is being produced by Disney. She made it through to the final round, but due to her young age, the role had to go to an actress over the age of 18. However, because the producer really wanted her in the show, he cast her as part of the reading.

Yet, even with those possibilities on the horizon, she actually envisions a future on the screen and in the studio. But finding that balance isn’t so easy. 

“I’ve been doing music and Broadway for a while, but I think it’s time for me to start moving more towards TV and film. But while I’m filming, I’ll write songs, I’ll listen to demos, I’ll write music – music is always going to be a part of my life, no matter what.” 

While on Broadway, Lagares tries to balance school and a career by attending classes and leaving early, participating in her school plays and even running track. But it’s not always easy to juggle everything.

“It’s definitely been a challenge because you’re missing classes and your classmates, and you’re basically teaching yourself at that point,” she explains. “That was the hardest part,  probably, being in school and doing Broadway at the same time. There are some times when I do want to be a normal kid who just goes to school and does normal things and hangs out with friends, but this is what I want to do with my life.”

And yet, there’s still the possibility of a completely different future lingering in her mind. In addition to acting and music, Lagares really loves science, and she’s contemplating that career path as well. However, she’s not quite sure how she’d balance acting and music with lab coats and microscopes. So for now, Lagares will continue to focus on balancing theater, television, movies and singing with her education and the sometimes daunting task of being a teenage girl. The rest will play itself out over time. 

This article was published in the September/October 2022 print edition of Katonah Connect.

Kaitlyn Hardy
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Kaitlyn Hardy is studying journalism and film at Emerson College. In addition to being a writer, Kaitlyn is also an avid reader, tea drinker, and movie watcher.