Joanna Ampil wows as Bloody Mary

SOUNDS FAMILIAR - Baby A. Gil - The Philippine Star
Joanna Ampil wows as Bloody Mary
Joanna makes Filipinos proud as the ‘tremendous acting ability’ that Sir Cameron MacKintosh saw in her continues to flourish. This South Pacific has an excellent cast, but the sing-er-actress runs away with every scene she is in as the character Bloody Mary.
Photos from Joanna Ampil’s Instagram account

Filipino actress Joanna Ampil is used to getting rave reviews. After all, it was producer Sir Cameron MacKintosh himself who got her along that road. I still remember how he introduced his new star before the opening of Miss Saigon in Australia in 1995.

He said: “This girl who will play Kim has lungs of steel, tremendous acting ability and the looks of an angel. I wanted to cast the best Kim in the world.”

Joanna lived up to that promise. Not only as Kim but also as Eponine and Fantine in Les Miserables, as Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar, as Grizabella in Cats, as Mimi in Rent, Maria in The Sound of Music, as Francesca Johnson in Bridges of Madison County, even as Candida in Larawan and other roles.

But the acclaim she has been receiving lately still comes across as a surprise. Not because, she constantly gets raves but because the reviews for her work in the new production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific are flying off the radar. And she is playing Bloody Mary!

Here is one from James George of The News: “Joanna Ampil is a very different Bloody Mary. Exit the bright, breezy, chirpy, cheery matron and enter another, a beautiful, totally Machiavellian woman determined to set her daughter up with an American. You get the feeling she’d stop at nothing to do it. Her rendition of the normally cheesy Happy Talk is — permit me, the cliché — a revelation. Totally different to any version I’ve heard before, yet still cleverly true to the text, her performance is excellent.”

What about this from All That Dazzles: “Perhaps the standout performance of the whole evening comes from Joanna Ampil as Bloody Mary — the very definition of a scene-stealer. Often hilarious, sometimes vulnerable, she is always captivating in what is truly one of the greatest characterizations I have ever seen on a stage.”

Such raves for being Bloody Mary! Now those familiar with South Pacific know Bloody Mary as this Tonkinese woman selling assorted stuff to the American soldiers stationed in an island in the Pacific. Played by Juanita Hall on Broadway and in the movie, she is the subject of a grand number where she is made fun of by the soldiers. “…Bloody Mary’s chewin’ betel nut/ and she don’t use no Pepsodent/ now ain’t that too damn bad…”

Alternately funny and poignant, the character is seen as a caricature of the native islander who is quite taken with the G.I.s around her, so much so that she wants her daughter Liat to end up with one of them. Ampil can dish out a mean Bali Hai, but I could not see her as the betel-nut chewing Bloody Mary.

But she is and she makes us Filipinos proud. The “tremendous acting ability” that MacKintosh saw in her continues to flourish. She has taken a character set in stone and carved it to new perfection. This South Pacific has an excellent cast, but Ampil runs away with every scene she is in. Her Bloody Mary is still good for the laughs but the emotions she evokes go deeper. Although the visiting Americans seemingly represent a better existence, the island native with dreams is no different from them.

That was how director Daniel Evans saw Bloody Mary, the same in a lot of ways but now more multi-faceted. He brought in the same daring and penetrating insight into this iconic musical that was first staged in 1949. And audiences love what he has done. In fact, this South Pacific has been reaping raves from the time when it opened last July 5 at the Chichester Festival Theatre in the UK. It will run until Sept. 5.

South Pacific ranks right up there with Carousel, The Sound of Music, Oklahoma and The King and I as a masterpiece. We have not had the chance to watch it live these past years though, as it is considered too American and too dated for local tastes. But thanks to Evans that is not so anymore.

And bless technology, there is no need to go to the UK to enjoy South Pacific. It is available on stream. Go to the site and treat yourself to heartwarming theater, beautiful songs like Some Enchanted Evening, Bali Hai, Younger Than Springtime and to the wonderful Joanna Ampil.

vuukle comment


  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with