Joanna comes home again

SOUNDS FAMILIAR - Baby A. Gil - The Philippine Star

There are two things that come to mind at mention of the name Joanna Ampil. London and Miss Saigon. Miss Saigon because Joanna was one of the actresses who played the part of Kim in the initial run of the musical at the Drury Lane Theater in the West End. And then London, because that was practically where she grew up while performing in Miss Saigon.

Joanna was a determined teenager who faked her age by raising it to 18 at a Miss Saigon audition in Manila in 1993. She was so good that she bagged the role of Kim and was still hired even after it was found out that she was underage. So with the original lead, Lea Salonga going on to be Eponine in Les Miserablés, Joanna took over the part. She proved herself worth it for the producers. She stayed with Miss Saigon for two years in London, did the Australian premiere and so loved the experience that she decided to stay in London and be an actress.

She has since then led the difficult but totally fascinating life of an actor. From Miss Saigon, Joanna also moved on to play the part of Eponine in Les Miz. Then there were Mary Magdalene in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar; Fantine also in Les Miz; Sheila in Hair and others. Her most recent role, which incidentally got superlative reviews, was that of Grizabella in the European and UK tour of Lloyd Webber’s Cats.

In between those stints, Joanna would come home on vacations. Sometimes she also did theater here, Maria in West Side Story and Maria in The Sound of Music. She recorded songs, did TV shows and concerts. But while she has a big name in Europe and a solid reputation as an actress, Joanna only turns heads here because she is a pretty girl. In short, she is known only in certain circles in her own country. Which is really unfortunate, not only on Joanna’s part but also for her countrymen, who are being deprived of her talents.

Joanna is back home again and this time around, she promises to stay put long enough to shoot a movie. She is slated to play Paula in Larawan, a new movie version of the opera based on Nick Joaquin’s Portrait of the Artist as a Filipino. She is also here to promote her new self-titled album. It will take a year or two before Larawan gets to the theaters but the album has been released and is now available.

Joanna Ampil the album is a mix of old and new, Filipino and foreign songs. The first single release is Hanggang Saan which was composed by Vehnee Saturno. There are also The Only Place To Be, Old Souls, Smiles, Won’t You Love Me Again, Kung Maari, Fragments of Forever and Init Sa Magdamag. The album also includes three duets: These are Kumusta Ka with champion heartthrob Mark Bautista; Kailangan Kita with the British boy group Blake; and Never Thought I’d Ever Love This Way Again, with the Concert King himself, Martin Nievera.

Produced by Christian de Walden, the dramatic duet Never Thought I’d Ever Love This Way Again is that type of song that requires exceptionally-gifted interpreters. As it is, it sounds like it was written expressly for Martin and Joanna. No wonder, their recording has met the approval of composer Tony Renis. This is the Italian pop star and actor who once wrote a song for an animated film titled Quest for Camelot. His song was The Prayer, which was recorded by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli and became a phenomenal hit.

With songs like those and the prospect of starring in her first film in the near future, it looks like Joanna has enough reason to put her bags away for a while and stay put in the Philippines.

And now for a look at the Pinoy MYX Countdown from MYX. Here are the Top 20 videos of the week: Kunwa-Kunwari Lang by Kyla; +63 by Sponge Cola feat. Yeng Constantino; Right Where You Belong by Julie Anne San Jose; Sa ‘Yo by Silent Sanctuary; Kapiling Ka by Karylle; Pag Napagod Na Ang Puso by Erik Santos; Walang-Wala by Banda Ni Kleggy; PML by Smugglaz; Into Your Arms by Luigi D’Avola; We Can’t Be by Krissy.

Di Kayang Pilitin by Klarisse de Guzman; Till I Met












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