Joanna Ampil and Mig Ayesa star in the first international production of “The Bridges of Madison County”. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA – After bringing the house down in “Rock of Ages” as the rock star Stacee Jaxx, MiG Ayesa is back in the country to take on a dramatic role.
The “Rockstar: INXS” finalist stars alongside theater actress Joanna Ampil (“Miss Saigon,” “West Side Story”) in the first international production of the Tony Award-winning musical “The Bridges of Madison County,” which will open on November 20 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium in RCBC Plaza, Makati.
Ayesa, who recently flew to Manila for a photo shoot for “Bridges,” said he is happy to be finally given the chance to work with Ampil decades after seeing her perform as Kim in “Miss Saigon” in Australia.
“She was absolutely breathtaking. And we haven’t really crossed paths since then, I haven’t been given the chance to meet her since 20 years ago,” he told ABS-CBNnews.com. “So it’s a big thrill for me to get to know her. It’s a great joy, a huge honor. She’s amazing.”
“I love the work ethic here,” he added. “When you work for a production in the Philippines, it’s very much hands-on, everyone’s basically hands on deck kind of thing… Everyone helps in all aspects of the production. It feels like family.”
In “Bridges,” Ayesa plays the role of Robert Kincaid, a National Geographic photographer who visits Madison County to shoot the covered bridges in the area.
There, he meets Francesca Johnson (Ampil), an Italian-born war bride who is bored with her husband and her Iowan farm life.
The two fall in love and have an affair.
“This is a big challenge for me to show the other side of my abilities and personality,” said Ayesa. “And I think another big challenge is also for viewers to see me and open their minds and say, ‘oh, we’re not expecting that kind of rock performance.’ I think they will be surprised as well because rock is just one aspect of what I do and my personality.”
“I haven’t actually had the chance to do something like this,” he explained. “The last dramatic role I played was when I was 13 years old. That’s a long time ago. So I’m excited to do this.”
Joanna Ampil and Mig Ayesa strike a pose during a photo shoot for “Bridges”. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com
To prepare for the role, Ayesa underwent vocal training in New York and did a lot of research on the music of “Bridges.”
“Songs have been on repeat on my iPod in the past few months. I listen to them in my dreams now. They’re actually haunting me,” he said, laughing. “But I feel like I’m getting more into it.”
‘Art imitates life’
While learning the songs in “Bridges” took a lot of work, Ayesa said he was able to connect easily with the story of his character, Robert, noting similarities with his own life.
“Actually, it’s quite scary. There are a lot of similarities – it’s like art is imitating life in this situation. Robert is a photographer for the National Geographic and does a lot of travel photography, and I do a lot of travel photography myself. My grandfather was president of Camera Club of the Philippines for years, and my mom is an avid photographic enthusiast as well. So there’s that.
“Robert is a divorced man, and I’m a divorced man. I’ve spent a lot of time traveling for the past ten years. Robert is a traveler as well. He goes from town to town and he’s constantly on the go, on the road. He knows what it’s like to live out of a suitcase and live in motels, and on the road – that’s basically been my life.
“And also, I’m a bit of a loner as well. Since my divorce, I’ve been very shy about being in a relationship. I’ve been very cautious with my heart. It’s a tricky one for me, trying to get over that. And I’m healing, it’s a process.”
While he has not experienced being in an affair with a married woman, Ayesa said he can relate to Robert in the sense that his character was also given a chance to open his heart yet again.
The singer happily shared that he’s been in a relationship for six weeks.
“It’s all very new but at the same time, it’s the first time since I got married that I feel that I can really open up… It’s like having a second chance and I feel like Robert is also allowing himself to be vulnerable,” he said. “It’s a wonderful experience but also very scary. You become vulnerable, but you also feel alive.”
“These are exciting times. Hopefully, that could translate to the stage, too,” he said.
Ayesa opted to tread carefully on the issue of infidelity, especially with the Philippines being a predominantly Catholic country.
Sharing what he was able to take away from the story of “Bridges,” he said: “Sometimes, things happen beyond your control. There are opportunities that will come to you – sometimes you have to grab them, but you have to realize the consequences of your actions. Because sometimes, the consequences are greater than the experience.”
“Of course, infidelity always involves betrayal. But at the same time, we are all human. We have to forgive people if they fail in that situation. Ultimately, it all comes down to love,” he said.
When asked if he agrees with the decisions of the characters in “Bridges,” Ayesa replied: “Robert, for me, had a very easy decision. He wants to be with Francesca – there’s no one else in the picture. With Francesca, she has three other people, her husband and her kids.”
“She had to make a very big decision… But let’s not put any judgment because she had an affair. She was just being true to herself,” he added.
Nevertheless, he considers “Bridges” as “one of the most beautiful stories ever written,” with the singer inviting Filipinos to support the Manila run of the show.
“You better come and see the show. I’m very proud to be working with amazing Filipino talent,” he ended.