Monday, March 03, 2008

We see you, Joanna

She's starred in some of the biggest musicals in London's West End (Miss Saigon, Jesus Christ Superstar, Les Miserables), performed on the same stage with Dame Judi Dench and before the Queen of England, worked with the likes of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Cameron Mackintosh and Jason Robert Brown, achieved acclaim in many parts of Europe for her musical-theater appearances.

And yet when Joanna Ampil stepped out of her pad in Libis one January morning to head to McDonald's, nobody recognized her or gave her so much as a second look.

Sad, though perhaps quite understandable. Joanna left the Philippines 16 years ago to join Miss Saigon in London, and opted to stay there when other big opportunities came her way. The then-17-year-old newbie actress who took over from Jamie Rivera as Kim in the Boublil-Schonberg musical would eventually play Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar, Eponine in Les Miserables, Shiela Franklin in Hair, Mimi in a European touring production of Rent, and a number of other roles in smaller musicals. Like Lea Salonga, she has graduated from playing Eponine and is now performing Fantine in Les Miz-London.

Reviews of her performances have ranged from admiring to ecstatic. "A major West End performer with stunning vocals," pronounced Mark Duffy of The Association of Irish Musicals Society. "A gorgeous velvety voice," piped in Philip Fisher of The British Theater Guide. There's also, among others, "A great supporting performance as Fantine" (The Times of London), "An absolutely perfect Mimi" (Andreas Haider, Muzikalcentrale), and "A stand-out turn" in Hair (The Stage). (More reviews here.)

Joanna's recent Christmas/New Year break in Manila gave me the opportunity to do a brief but very insightful video interview with her. She's just launched a CD of showtunes from the musicals she's done as well as a few other favorites, and the album is, first and foremost, a fine showcase of her vocal range. ("Think of Me" from Phantom of the Opera one moment, "Out Tonight" from Rent the next!)

The CD, unfortunately, is not available in Manila, but I got Joanna's permission to share with readers a few tracks in this blog. I'll do that in a follow-up post. In the meantime, do watch the interview and rediscover (or discover, as the case may be) one of the brightest musical-theater lights in the West End today, who happens to be a sweet, lovely, refreshingly unaffected Pinay.

PLUS: Joanna performing "Last Night of the World" with Simon Bowman on Dutch TV here. A video of her recording "Neverland" for her album here. Her website here, containing reviews, audio samples, pictures, a complete bio and contact details.


erasmusa said...

thanks for this, gibbs! just this weekend, i was thinking of asking jenny jamora to track joanna down for talking parts. seeing her as eponine eight years ago made me so proud to be pinoy.

Ada said...

She looks like Jennylyn Mercado in some angle.

Nice gibbs. Not all can grab the opportunity to have a nice interview with her.

gibbs cadiz said...

ey ERASMUSA, wow, you watched her live? that must have been amazing. :)

ADA, thanks, am very honored to be given the chance. :)

Anonymous said...

She is good in the JCS recording. Iba siya sa mga nag Mary Magdalene na. Gamble sa casting iyon pero it worked. Problem is, dun sa kanta niya ng Neverland, ang dami na sa broadway and west end na ganyan ang boses. Well, since she is a kababayan, hope shell succeed.

Anonymous said...

being a sondheim fan, i like the title of the article!

TheBachelorGirl said...

Hi Gibbs. I hope you can upload the cuts from Jo's CD soon. With her being cast as Maria in West Side Story, I'm sure a lot of people would love to listen to her voice, especially her audition piece Think of Me from Phantom. Thanks, Gibbs!

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