Leo Valdez thrilled over Joanna Ampil as the Engineer in 'Miss Saigon'

Mario Dumaual, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 23 2022 10:15 PM

Stage veteran Leo Valdez. FILE/ABS-CBN
Stage veteran Leo Valdez. FILE/ABS-CBN

MANILA — Veteran actor Leo Valdez hailed the choice of compatriot Joanna Ampil as the first female actress to play The Engineer in “Miss Saigon” as a “historical event” in theater. 

Valdez made an indelible mark portraying the crucial role in innumerable performances in several “Miss Saigon” international tours starting in 1994. One of his many outstanding performances is his rendition of “The American Dream”. He last played the part in the megahit musical’s 2018-2019 tour in Germany. 

“Joanna Ampil being tasked to play the pivotal role of the Engineer is a historical event in Miss Saigon’s musical theatre journey , “ Valdez told ABS-CBN News Friday. “A woman playing the role that has been played by a man is a huge honor for Jo in particular and the Filipinos in general.”

Valdez also called the twist in the casting of the 2023 “Miss Saigon” production in England as “Cameron Mackintosh’s genius in re-inventing one of the world’s biggest musicals.”

“Having played The Engineer in countless productions all over the world for many years, I am super thrilled, excited, and very happy for Joanna and looking forward to this new production that has been so close to my heart,” he added. 

Ampil first played Kim in her “Miss Saigon” debut at London West End in 1993. In her statement regarding her casting on Thursday, Ampil said the break will give her the opportunity to “champion the Asian perspective and answer some of the racist and misogynistic overtones in this new staging” and “to execute the role as a woman of strength, sensitivity, grit, complete with flaws and a whole lot of heart.”

“In addition to that, it will hopefully open doors to so many of my fellow actors regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender identity and religious beliefs to color-blind casting, break barriers, and represent,” she said.

Other Filipino actors who played The Engineer in its more than three-decade run include Robert Seña, Junix Inocian, and Lyon Roque. In a social media post, Roque said the multi-awarded Ampil will be sensational in the role. 

“It will be interesting to see how her Engineer interacts with Kim,” he said. “Obviously because she knows her inside out but also as a woman... what level of empathy she will have for Kim as opposed to the classic male version.”