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Busy Joanna

SOUNDS FAMILIAR - Baby A. Gil (The Philippine Star) - September 10, 2015 - 10:00am

“Be careful what you ask for,” is probably what Joanna Ampil is saying to herself these days, “You might just get it.” And she did. In fact, she is still getting it.

Two years ago, she came home to resume her career in the Philippines after many years spent in London. Used to the regimented life of a professional actor in the West End, I recall Joanna groaning over not doing anything. She was not used to taking things easy and wanted work, lots of it.

Fast forward to today and how things have changed. Joanna, nowadays, is everywhere. She has become that rarity in the local entertainment scene. A busy theater actress. She is busy shooting a film. She is all over radio and television promoting a new single from her latest album. And amidst all that, she is of course, also doing what she does best, that is, starring in some musicals on stage.

First off, Joanna is playing Nellie Forbush, the nurse who fell in love with a French plantation owner with bi-racial children in South Pacific in Concert. Although, this is not her first Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, remember, she was Maria in a local production of The Sound of Music a few years ago. This is the first time that Joanna is playing an American girl and with a Southern accent at that.

The show plays at the Newport Performing Arts Theater in Resorts World Manila on Saturdays, Sept. 12 and 19. It also stars Jon Meer Vera Perez, Mark Bautista and Ima Castro. Catch it and enjoy songs like Some Enchanted Evening, Bali Hai, Younger Than Springtime, I’m In Love With A Wonderful Guy, There Is Nothing Like A Dame and many others.

Next on tap for her onstage is what may well be the most romantic musical of the year. This is the Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group production of the Tony Award-winning The Bridges of Madison County. This is based on the bestselling novel by Robert James Waller which later became a successful motion picture, starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood.

And Joanna gets to play the part of the housewife Francesca Johnson who had a chance, life-changing encounter with a traveling photographer. For this one, she will put on a little Italian accent. Set to play her lover is rocker and actor MiG Ayesa. Bridges opens on Nov. 20 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium of RCBC Plaza in Makati. It would be really interesting to see Joanna and MiG, who are both known for strong, over-the-top characters, in something as sexy and intimate as this one.

Then there is Larawan that Joanna has been shooting these past weeks. This is the motion picture rendition of the play Portrait of the Filipino as an Artist by National Artist Nick Joaquin. This was later adapted into a play and a movie, which in turn became the basis for the opera by Ryan Cayabyab with a libretto by another National Artist, Rolando Tinio. This opera has now become a big screen musical produced by Celeste Legaspi and Girlie Rodis, directed by Loy Arcenas and with Ryan’s music.

Set in Manila during the 1930s, Portrait or Larawan tells the story of two sisters, Candida and Paula Marasigan, who are unable to cope with the prospect of impoverished old age and their changing surroundings. Joanna is Candida, while Rachel Alejandro is Paula. Expect an aural and visual feast with Joanna and the rest of the cast singing in true Tagalog.

 Amidst all these, Joanna finds the time to promote the second single from her eponymous album. A soaring statement of happiness, The Only Place To Be was composed by Ed Fox, arranged by Ralf Stenman and produced by Christian de Walden. It is a most fitting description of where Joanna is today as far as her career in the Philippines is concerned. So, in between film shoots and rehearsals, she appears in TV shows and visits radio station to plug her song.

Joanna Ampil album also includes Fragments Of Forever, Init Sa Magdamag, Won’t You Love Me Again, Kung Maari, Old Souls and Smile. The first single release was Hanggang Saan, which was composed by Vehnee Saturno. Also in the album are three notable duets: Kumusta Ka with Mark Bautista, Kailangan Kita with the British boy group Blake and Never Thought I’d Ever Love This Way with Martin Nievera. The latter is a composition by Italian music great Tony Renis, who also wrote The Prayer and Volare.

Joanna was only 17 years old when she bagged the role of Kim in Miss Saigon. She has since then worked extensively on the London stage. She has been in Les Miserablés, both as Eponine and Fantine, in Jesus Christ Superstar and Avenue Q. Her most recent appearance, which by the way generated a lot of rave reviews, was in the touring company of Cats as Grizabella behind the showstopping song, Memory.

ACIRC ATLANTIS THEATRICAL ENTERTAINMENT GROUP BALI HAI BLAKE AND NEVER THOUGHT I BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY CANDIDA AND PAULA MARASIGAN CARLOS P CELESTE LEGASPI AND GIRLIE RODIS ED FOX JOANNA JOANNA AMPIL
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