JOANNA Ampil first played the lead role of Kim in “Miss Saigon” in London from 1993-1995, then she did it again in 2001-2002. She has appeared in many other plays in London, like “Jesus Christ Superstar” as Mary Magdalene, “Les Miserables” as Eponine and later, Fantine, “Hair”, “Avenue Q”, “Rent” and “Cats”. All in all, she has done a total of 18 shows here and abroad. Last year, she forayed into local films and her performance as Candida in “Larawan” won her several best actress awards.
She’s now back home doing the title role in “Waitress”, a hit Broadway musical based on a 2007 Hollywood film of the same title, with the songs written by Sara Bareilles and the book by Jessie Nelson. Joanna says it’s the most challenging role she’s ever played so far.
“Physically, emotionally and vocally, it’s even more demanding than the role of Kim in ‘Miss Saigon’,” she adds. “I play Jenna, a waitress who’s trapped in a loveless marriage with her abusive husband and finds comfort in making pies. She joins a pie making contest and hopes to win its grand prize to get out her bad situation. She is helped by her two friends, Bituin Escalante as Becky and Maronne Cruz as Dawn. With Jenna, I’m required to be always on the stage.”
She says she’s more nervous when performing for Filipino audiences than when she’s doing plays for foreigners. “Honestly, there’s more pressure here because Filipinos are so talented. They know what sound they want to hear and we’re such good mimics here, so they have higher standards. In a way it’s good because you always try to be on your toes and perform better to avoid making mistakes since local audiences can be quite perfectionist.”
“Waitress” continues to be a hit on Broadway and Joanna regrets that she has never seen it being staged there. “I hope I could still watch it someday,” she says. “But our version is a fresh take on the show. We know people would compare so we have to do our own thing and interpret it our own way. You should see what we did with such difficult song numbers like ‘Bad Idea’, ‘What Baking Can Do’ and ‘Opening Up’. It’s very different. There are a lot of memorable musical moments as each sparkling number is very special.”
“Waitress” opens in Manila on Nov. 9 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati City. Also in the cast are Bibo Reyes, Niño Alejandro, George Schulze, Dean Rosen, Steven Conde, Luigi Quesada, Gerhard Krysstopher, Luis Marcelo, Emeline Celis Guinid, Teetin Villanueva, Sarah Facuri, and Jillian Itaas, directed by Bobby Garcia.