Joanna Ampil: From stage to movie star

MANILA, Philippines – Theater actress Joanna Ampil has come a long way. From starring in the hit musical Miss Saigon at 17 years old, she has appeared in various productions such as Jesus Christ Superstar, Les Miserables, Westside StoryThe Sound of Music, and Cats, where she played the role of Grizabella and sang the famous song “Memory.”

Now back in Manila, Joanna recently launched her new album under Viva Records. She is also preparing for the movie version of Larawan.

On her new album

“I’m very proud of it (the album) because they gave me the freedom to choose some of the songs and to be quite hands on with the project,” Joanna told the press at the album launch last July 1. The album, she said, took two years to produce.

The album is Joanna’s third record. It's first single, “Hanggang Saan,” was composed by Vehnee Saturno. 

“I’m very happy Vehnee gave me a couple of songs for the album because I’m a huge fan of his,” Joanna said.

According to Joanna, the 11 songs she chose are vocally challenging and demanded nuanced interpretations. 

Aside from “Hanggang Saan,” another song in the album Joanna is proud of is “Never Thought I’d Ever Love This Way,” a duet with Concert King Martin Nievera.

“I’m so lucky that Martin said yes to this. Its a song composed by Tony Renis who also wrote 'The Prayer,'” she said. 

Two other songs, “Kumusta Ka” featuring Mark Bautista and “Kailangan Kita”  featuring Blake  are included in the album. 


Miss Saigon and Larawan 

Last May, Miss Saigon re-opened in London to positive reviews. As a former cast member, Joanna said she got the opportunity to see it again. She has nothing but praise for the show.

“Watching it (Miss Saigon) was like reliving it again, and I absolutely adore the version of the production. I’ve seen it before. It’s a scaled production but more theatrical,” she said.

Joanna also praised actresses Eva Noblezada and Rachelle Ann Go for their performance as Kim and Gigi.

“I thought she (Eva) was amazing. She sang effortlessly and she was very different from my interpretation and Lea’s and all the other Kim’s because she is more of a woman. Although she was 18 when she played it, she’s very mature in her portrayal of Kim but it works well,” she said.

“Rachelle was sexy in the show and she was beautiful. She had the best costume I think. Even if Gigi is a featured role in the show, they made it big, and Rachelle has this amazing presence on stage, which kind of leaves you wanting for more of her performance.” 

From her recent role as Grizabella in Cats, Joanna in now entering the movies. She is set to star  with Rachel Alejandro in the movie version of Larawan, based on Nick Joaquin's A Portrait of the Artist as a Filipino. The movie will be produced by Celeste Legaspi.

Admitting to be very nervous, “I am still so overwhelmed that I don’t know how huge this is. But I know it is so I suppose that’s a good thing,” Joanna said. 

She said that is taking acting lessons in preparation for the film.  “I’ve never done a movie before and that’s very challenging for me.”

Despite the achievements she earned abroad, Joanna said that she educates herself in her craft.

When asked what advise she can give to those who want to be in the entertainment profession, she said: ”Maraming discipilina  (a lot of discipline) that’s for sure. And also never giving up on your dream and not taking it personally. The one thing i’ve learned is not to take things personally and not take yourself seriously.”

From album, stage, and now a movie, Joanna Ampil is an example of an artist who will not rest on her laurels and continue to dedicate herself to the craft she loves.  –

Joanna Ampil photo and album cover courtesy of Viva Records