In The Spotlight: Jennifer Madill Hagen & Tanner Hagen


With every Main Stage production, we like to highlight an artist who has not only been involved with the show but has also made an awesome impact on the Playhouse. From the set to costumes to lights, a lot of hard work goes into each production behind-the-scenes weeks before that opening night performance (and a lot of this work is something audience members never see!).

With our current production of Billy Elliot: The Musical, we’re shining a spotlight on not just one artist, but two: mother-son duo Jennifer Madill Hagen and Tanner Hagen.


What does it mean to be in a show together, especially one like Billy Elliot? What’s it been like working with each other?

  • JENN: Being in the show with my son means everything! The bonding time is priceless. And for it to be this show about a dance teacher and a boy who dances it’s very special because it hits so close to home. Mrs. Wilkinson story is a lot like mine. Being a dance teacher you spend so much time teaching and getting to know and care for these children and then have to say goodbye to amazing kids every year.
  • TANNER: It means the world to be able to perform with my actual mom. We get to practice a lot together, cause she’s always there. She taught me everything about dance. I wouldn’t be able to do this without her.

How are you involved with the Duluth Playhouse?

  • JENN: I’ve done many shows over the years but had a couple years of injuries. So I’m very excited to be back on the Playhouse stage.
  • TANNER: I did a show when I was six where I played a rat, and I was very shy and quiet. Now six years later, I’m Billy.

How did theatre become a part of your life?

  • JENN: I’ve always loved Broadway musicals and I’m a dancer who loves to sing and act so it was a natural fit doing all of it.
  • TANNER: I had no choice! Both my parents are singers and dancers, I grew up surrounded by the arts. But of course, I loved it from the start and knew that is what I want to do.

What’s your favorite Playhouse moment to date?

  • JENN: The first time I saw Tanner do Billy’s ‘Angry Dance’ for the cast. Seeing their excitement and reactions to his amazing talent was such a great feeling.
  • TANNER: Singing ‘Electricity’ for the first time on stage. I understood the lyrics because my feelings matched the words.

What are you looking forward to next (on or off stage)?

  • JENN: The industry dance awards in Hollywood California where we were invited because of one of our dance pieces.
  • TANNER: My movie I am shooting in LA in August. I play the lead. It’s about a boy who dances in a school talent show and has to deal with his mom’s boyfriend telling him it’s not right for a boy to dance. It’s a little bit like Billy Elliot’s story.

Anything else you’d like to add?

  • JENN: My little family I call the Four Musketeers, including my two sons and husband, are everything to me. Together, my husband and I have created two theater babies and have a lot of fun “playing”!
  • TANNER: Thank you to the Playhouse for this amazing opportunity