For Joanna Ampil, Grizabella from ‘Cats’ is a dream role come true
MANILA, Philippines – Imagine playing a role roughly 8 times a week, where every performance means you give just a bit of yourself to a role beloved by a generation. That’s precisely the life theater actress Joanna Ampil lived and is fortunate enough to relive as she’s set to play Grizabella in the Manila run of the musical classic Cats.
Imagine, as well, of this as a literal dream come true.
“I’ve always wanted to bring Cats to Manila. Finally we have the chance. I’m nervous also but I’m more excited,” the Filipino actress told media on Thursday, October 3, ahead of the musical’s Manila run beginning November 6.
The musical, based on T.S. Eliot’s 1939 poetry collection Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, follows the Jellicle cats who all converge for the Jellicle Ball. It’s during the ball that their leader, Old Deuteronomy, picks who will go to “The Heaviside Layer” and be reborn into a “whole new Jellicle life.” No less than the legendary Andrew Lloyd Webber composed the sung-through musical's music, which includes songs such as “Memory,” which Grizabella sings.
Cats’ central conceit, admittedly, is more fanciful that most. While talking, singing, and dancing cats that constantly break the fourth wall require extra effort in suspending disbelief, it’s this universe of peculiarity that draws fans – Joanna included – into the musical.
“I remember watching it when I was 17. I watched it because I heard the music of the Jellicle Ball. And I was so amazed by the sound I was hearing. When I watched it, I immediately loved the character of Grizabella and I could relate to her,” she said.
“Since then I had my eye on the part. But I was too young at that time so I had to wait a few years after that. So finally, I’m playing her,” said the actress.
Joanna was first tapped to play the part during the UK and Ireland tour from 2013 to 2014.
That Grizabella is the tribe’s outcast also works to Joanna’s advantage – because the character appears on-stage for just a little over 30 minutes, she typically has the energy to explore the cities they’ve toured in, when everyone else is exhausted from a night’s performance.
It also helps, of course, that Joanna has mastered the transformation from herself to Grizabella. From an hour of makeup, it now takes a little over 20 minutes to transform into the fictional feline.
There is much to be thankful for, and Joanna is generous in pointing that out. From a young actress’ dream many years back, to a dream casting in the early 2010s, Joanna Ampil is living the dream.
There is nary a trace of exhaustion years later, with the Manila run set to begin in early November. “It’s mesmerizing. I’m still amazed by the music. It still gets me – even if I’ve done it for so long,” Joanna told the media.
Cats opens in Manila at the Solaire Theatre on November 6, with shows running up to December 1. Tickets may be purchased TicketWorld. – Rappler.com