New musical marks a couple of firsts for Joanna Ampil

Karen Flores,

Posted at Oct 23 2015 08:30 AM | Updated as of Oct 23 2015 04:30 PM

MANILA – “Gosh, I hope we do justice to the story.” Theater veteran Joanna Ampil made this humble statement as she prepares for her newest project.

Ampil, who has been part of hugely popular musicals such as “Miss Saigon” and “West Side Story,” stars 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.

“Bridges” marks her first time to perform with singer MiG Ayesa, who is known for his role as Stacee Jaxx in the “Rock of Ages” musical.

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Joanna Ampil and MiG Ayesa star in the international production of “The Bridges of Madison County,” their first project together. Photo by Karen Flores,

“I’ve just done the music rehearsal with him and it sounds amazing. It’s a real joy because he’s a lovely person on stage,” Ampil told in an interview on the sidelines of a photo shoot for “Bridges”.

“I’ve known MiG for a while now even if it’s my first time to work with him… It takes a lot of trust to be able to do this part. So I’m glad he’s the one doing it,” she added.

‘Very relatable’

In “Bridges”, Ampil plays the role of Francesca Johnson, an Italian-born war bride who is bored with her husband and her life in the farm.

She crosses paths with National Geographic photographer Robert Kincaid (Ayesa), who visits Madison County to shoot the covered bridges in the area. The two eventually fall in love and have an affair.

Ampil believes that the story of “Bridges” is “very relatable” to Filipinos, noting the popularity of TV shows and movies about infidelity in the country.

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Joanna Ampil and MiG Ayesa take a break from the photo shoot of “Bridges” at a studio in Makati. Photo by Karen Flores,

“Although the subject matter is quite sensitive, it’s something that happens in real life. It happens every day. In one way or another, we’ve been victims of it,” she explained.

“People love that story here, with all our teleseryes and movies that are coming out. So yeah, it’s very accessible to them. It’s full of drama. It’s a story about love, which always works.”

When asked how similar or different she is from her character, Ampil said: “Well, I am single, that’s one difference (laughs).”

“Passion, perhaps? I am also quite passionate like my character. I also tend to be impulsive and persuasive, I can relate to that. Falling in love easily – maybe I can relate to that also, although I don’t do that as often now. When I was younger, of course, I do all those things. I’m still discovering her so those are the initial things I’ve discovered from Francesca,” she said.

Challenging songs

“Bridges” is also Ampil’s first opportunity to be part of a musical by the award-winning composer and lyricist Jason Robert Brown.

“Although I have worked with Jason before, doing one of his songs in a concert, this is the first time that I’m doing a whole musical of his,” she said.

Despite her vast experience in theater, Ampil finds the songs here “very challenging” to perform. For one, they are over five minutes long.

“It can be a standalone already. It can be a story in itself,” she said. “I’m discovering a lot of things from it.

But she is enjoying the challenge. After only two rehearsals, Ampil is quick to say that “Bridges” is going to be a wonderful piece, noting not only the music but the way it celebrates different kinds of emotions.

“Please come and see us if you want to feel inspired, if you want to feel loved. Come and see ‘Bridges of Madison County’. It’s really, really fantastic,” she ended.