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Joanna Ampil stays in PH briefly for ‘Larawan’ movie



By this time, Joanna Ampil is abroad again to join the touring company of “Cats” but she did give ample time here for her first ever, full-length film “Larawan.”

Joanna Ampil (

Joanna Ampil

The movie is an adaptation of the musical of the same title which is based on “A Portrait Of The Artist As Filipino” by National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin.

“I’m truly excited for this because it really has everything that audiences could hope for: Drama, comedy, songs, people would love it,” said the world renowned singer-actress in an interview early this week.

Award-winning Broadway production designer Loy Arcenas, who previously helmed the Cinemalaya entries “Niño” and “REquieme!” directs the film.

According to Joanna, Loy is an “extremely meticulous, pedantic director.”

“He has a keen eye for details. I have to admit the rehearsal period was exhausting. Sobra siyang particular na kailangan lahat eksakto. He’s very intelligent, he doesn’t go for cliches.”

Taking on the role of Candida in the film is a huge challenge for Joanna.

“The role was really beyond me – I have nothing in common with Candida.For one I’m more practical, Candida is not. I had to do a lot research to prepare for the role.”

Then there’s the matter of doing lines in what some people call old Tagalog or formal Tagalog.

“They’re kind of stiff so it took some time adjusting to,” she related. “Add to that the Kundiman songs. Pero, in the end, it was very satisfying. Now, I could sing more Tagalog songs with confidence having worked on this film.”

She almost quit the film too but for the producers urging her to stay on.

“I’m really thankful that my co-stars were very supportive of me as well, particularly Rachel Alejandro and Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo. The rehearsals were quite intense. But I’m thankful that I stayed on because the result is just fantastic,” intoned Joanna.

“Larawan” is about two sisters coping with their painter father going through artistic drought. He would bequeath them a self-portrait, something that would add to their dilemma.

“We could only hope it would be a success,” said Joanna, relating how producers are planning to field it to this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival.

“This is really something the generation today could well appreciate,” she added.

It is not the first time “Larawan” was turned into a film as Lamberto Avellana had done one in 1965.

“Larawan” enjoyed a successful revival as a play in 1997.

“Some members of the original stage cast are with us in the film,” related Joanna, citing the involvement of Celeste Legaspi, Zsa Zsa Padilla and Ricky Davao, among others.

“The fact that it is written by Nick Joaquin, a national artist, with libretto by Rolando Tinio, another national artist, and that it is scored by Ryan Cayabyab who is soon going to be a national artist, too, well, this film should outlive us all,” she declared.

Busy as ever

Joanna has no immediate plans of doing more films locally, busy as she is with the worldwide tour of “Cats.”

“We started in January, we already did the Middle East and Eastern Europe. We will soon be hitting cities in Western Europe and Asia,” she related.

Joanna also just recorded her own version of “Memory” from “Cats” soon available on Spotify.

“I will also record my version of ‘Always Better’ from ‘The Bridges Of Madison County’ as second single.”

The ingenue

Joanna’s first taste of fame came in 1993 as a 17-year-old landing the part of Kim in the acclaimed musical “Miss Saigon.”

“It was like a training ground for me as at that point I had no formal training in theater,” Joanna said. “It served as my foundation.”

It was a good foundation, too as it led to her landing significant parts in other plays including “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Les Misérables.”

Apart from her stage work, Joanna also appeared in the film “One Day” opposite Anne Hathaway.

“One day lang din literally ’yung work ko du’n sa film,” she said with a laugh. “Nu’ng napanood ko nga eh halos magmukha akong extra na. Madaming natanggal sa mga eksena ko.”

She appeared on “Broken News” a comedy program shown on BBC Two in 2005. (With report from Jojo P. Panaligan)

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