Joanna Ampil thrilled to headline new musical

Joanna Ampil at her pocket press conference announcing the new Atlantis musical she's headlining, Waitress (photo by Edwin P. Sallan/Concept News Central) and in character as Jenna Hunterson.

Even before she won her first Best Actress award for the film adaptation of the acclaimed musical, Ang Larawan, at last year’s Metro Manila Film Festival, Joanna Ampil has been saying in recent years that she wanted to expand her acting horizons.

“If I could, I want to get into radio, television and films. I want to keep learning. I never want to stop,” the actress best known for her work in international musical theater productions like Miss Saigon told this writer in a 2015 interview.

“I’m up for any challenge. I’m an actor. I’m an artist. I’ll take on anything. As long as it will challenge me and stretch me as an artist, I’m all for it,” Joanna again reiterated shortly after her MMFF 2017 victory.

And the challenges keep on coming.

Following Ang Larawan, Joanna went to Hong Kong to reprise her iconic role as Grizabella in the ongoing touring production of Cats which, of course, includes her show-stopping performance of the musical’s signature song, “Memory.” Joanna’s stint with the musical ends in October after which she will immediately start work on Waitress, the hit Broadway musical that will be staged in Manila by Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group.

During a recent pocket interview at Discovery Suites to announce her latest project, Joanna described Waitress, a musical adaptation of an acclaimed 2007 Hollywood indie film starring Keri Russell and directed by ill-fated actress Adrienne Shelly.

“It’s a very special show and it’s going to be directed by one of my favorite directors, Bobby Garcia, who I last worked with in Bridges of Madison County. I’m also a fan of Sara Bareilles who does the music and lyrics based on the book by Jessie Nelson,” Joanna said when asked what attracted her to the musical.

“It’s full of ingredients, metaphorically and literally. It’s about women empowerment, mother-and-daughter relationships, friendships and bonding. It’s also about finding your strength back and knowing that it’s never too late to achieve what you want in life.”

In the musical, Joanna plays Jenna Hunterson, a pie baker who she says is “trapped in an abusive and loveless relationship with her husband and becomes pregnant unexpectedly and later falls in love with her gynecologist.”

With her two friends Dawn played by Maronne Cruz and Becky portrayed by Bituin Escalante, Jenna builds the courage to find her strength back and change her destiny even as she turns to baking to deal with her mostly mundane existence.

Asked if she herself bakes just like her character, Joanna laughed aloud and said, “No, I don’t. I don’t go near a kitchen. But I like pies, especially the sweet ones.”

“Baking is a very essential and integral part of the show, though,” she added.

As to how familiar she is with Waitress, Joanna confessed that although she has seen the original film version, she has yet to see the musical but has read the script and familiarized herself with the soundtrack. “After hearing the music, I’m very, very excited. The show is very rich with colorful characters so it’s nice to be challenged again by something so enormous,” she mused.

While she’s back in town, Joanna is looking forward to accepting other acting vehicles as well. “I believe there were offers but since I’ve been away, I had to turn some things down.

I am open to doing movies and also teleseryes as I’ve mentioned in the past. I’m open to doing so many things.”

As a matter of fact, the actress-singer recently recorded a new single, a remake of Randy Santiago’s signature song, “Di Magbabago,” which she hopes will be released before Waitress opens this November. “I’ll also be doing concerts next year,” she further revealed.

And yes, she is thrilled that Ang Larawan continues to make the rounds of campuses and international film festivals.

“I feel so fortunate to be part of something that in a way, comes only once in a lifetime. It’s a legacy movie that’s going to outlive us all. It’s not going to be easy for me to top that,” she admitted.

That’s where the challenge of Waitress and her other future projects lie.

Waitress opens on 9 November at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium in RCBC Plaza, Makati. For ticket information, visit