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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Jun 15, 2017

Internationally Acclaimed Theater Actress Joanna Ampil Appear As Candida Marasigan In 'Ang Larawan', The Film Adaptation Of Nick Joaquin's 'Portrait Of The Artist As Filipino'

JOANNA AMPIL, an internationally acclaimed theatre actress, is presented by ABS-CBN in a solo presscon as advanced promo for the film version of the stage musical, “Larawan”, which was written by Ryan Cayabyab, with libretto by National Artist Rolando Tinio and music by the ABS-CBN Philharmonic. The day after the Tuesday presscon, Joanna left for the world tour of “Cats”, where she plays Grizabella singing “Memory”, for which she recorded a single now released here in Manila.

Joanna did the role of Kim in “Miss Saigon” when she was only 17 years old at West End, London for two years, from 1993 to 1995. She was a high school student at St. Mary’s College QC when she took the auditions at the CCP and was hired, even if she had no previous acting experience at all.

What are her experience as a teenager living along in London? “It’s very hard. It’s the first time I’m away from my family and my biggest enemy is loneliness, missing them and my friends so much. I did other things, like kickboxing, learning to play the guitar, but I also made mistakes, wrong decisions about relationships, some with foreigners. I got married to a Filipino graphic artist but after three and a half years, we got divorced. We have no kids. I also got engaged to a Belgian-Thai fiance. Also didn’t work. But no regrets. That’s how you learn your lessons. Everything that happened is part of what I am now.”

One unforgettable experience is performing for Queen Elizabeth and the Royal Family of England. “It was intimidating as they were seated on the front row. I was very nervous kasi I’ll be the first one to sing. I did ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ from Les Miz. But after the show, she talked with us. I learned to curtsey. And she’s very gracious.”

After Kim, she did Mary Magdalene in “Jesus Christ Superstar”, Christmas Eve in “Avenue Q”, and Eponine then Fantine in “Les Miserables”. She also appeared in “Rent”.

Sir Cameron MacKintosh also made her play Kim in the Australian premiere of “Miss Saigon” in Sydney and starred in the new musical “The Real Love”. She has released two solo albums, the proceeds of which went to the Sun and Moon Home for Children in Manila, which was initiated by Miss Saigon composer Claude-Michel Schonberg. Her first album, the self titled Joanna Ampil was recorded in Abbey Road Studios in London and her second, Try Love, in Manila.

For local theater, she did the role of Maria in "The Sound of Music" at the Newport Performing Arts Theater in Resorts World Manila, “West Side Story” and “The Bridges of Madison Country” with Migs Ayesa. She is part of the “Cats” world tour as Grizabella, first going to the Middle East and Eastern Europe, followed by Scandinavia and Western Europe.

In addition to her stage work, Joanna has done a few on-screen roles such as in the movie “One Day” starring Anne Hathaway and in several episodes of the TV series, “Broken News”. Now, she stars in “Ang Larawan”, an entry in the coming December Metro filmfest. “Ang Larawan” is the musical adaptation in Filipino of National Artist Nick Joaquin’s acclaimed play, “Portrait of the Artist as a Filipino”. She plays Paula Marasigan while Rachel Alejandro is her sister Candida.

Set just before World War II in Intramuros, the Old Manila, it’s a paean to an age gone by. The Marasigans belong to Manila’s old rich, but they are now poor and older siblings Manolo and Pepang (Nonie Buencamino and Menchu Yulo) are forcing their sisters Candida and Paula to sell their old house because they can hardly make ends meet. What with their father Don Lorenzo, who has made a masterpiece self-portrait coveted by art enthusiasts, now an invalid. They then take a male boarder, Tony Javier (Paulo Avelino) for added income, not knowing he will be an agent of change who will rip the sisters apart.

The film is narrated by Bitoy Camacho (Sandino Martin), and appearing in supporting roles are Celeste Legaspi and Zsa Zsa Padilla (who played Paula and Candida at the CCP staging of the musical), Robert Arevalo, Ogie Alcasid, Dulce, Noel Trinidad, Rayver Cruz, Aicelle Santos, Nanette Inventor, Leo Rialp, Cris Villonco, Mikee Cojuangco, and Ricky Davao who played Tony at the CCP.
So how is it being directed by Loy Arcenas, who has previously done two indie films, “Nino” with Fides Asencio and “Requieme” with Gina Alajar?

“Loy is a seriously meticulous and pedantic director,” says Joanna. “He has a keen eye for detail and I like that as I am pedantic myself. He’s also a very intelligent person who doesn’t want to go for cliches. We rehearsed our scenes for one year before starting actual shooting. It was very hard because the lyrics of the songs are in old Tagalog. It was a difficult challenge and I wanted to quit twice but Girlie Rodis, our producer, didn’t let me go and now, I am happy to be part of the finished film. It’s just amazing and fantastic.”

How is it working with Rachel Alejandro? “It felt good working with Rachel. She was very supportive of me when I wanted to quit because I was taking home my role. She encouraged me, saying kaya mo yan. We really bonded well.”

Here’s hoping “Larawan” will qualify as an official entry to the Metro-Manila Filmfest. It’s one local film that excites us and we pray that it will really be worth all the long wait.