"Excited" ang theater actress-singer na si Joanna Ampil sa pagkakasali ng kapwa niya Pinay na si Rachelle Anne Go sa West End revival ng Miss Saigon.
Si Joanna ay nakilala sa buong mundo dahil sa pagganap nito bilang Kim sa Miss Saigon.
Dalawang beses niyang ginampanan ang nasabing role.
Una, noong 1993, sa Theatre Royal sa London, United Kingdom. Pangalawa, noong 1995, sa Capitol Theater sa Sydney, Australia.
Dati ring nasa cast ng musical na Jesus Christ Superstar si Joanna bilang si Mary Magdalene.
Gumanap din siya bilang Eponine sa Les Miserables.
Ngayong 2014, muling magbubukas ang Miss Saigon sa West End at ilang Pinoy ang nakuha sa iba’t ibang roles.
Kabilang na nga rito si Rachelle Ann, na gaganap bilang Gigi—ang role na unang ginampanan ni Isay Alvarez sa original West End production.
Bukod kay Rachelle, kasama rin sa West End revival ng Miss Saigon si Jon Jon Briones bilang The Engineer at ang Fil-Am na si Eva Noblezada na siyang gaganap bilang bagong Kim.
Hindi maalis sa mukha ni Joanna ang excitement nang nakausap siya ng PEP tungkol sa bagong achievement na ito ng mga Pinoy.
Aniya, “I’m very excited about those na nakapasok sa Miss Saigon, tulad ni Rachelle.
"I know how they’re gonna enjoy their lives there and they will love the discipline and all the learning process.
"I’m really excited for them!"
LOOKING BACK. Pagkatapos nito ay nagbalik-tanaw si Joanna noong panahon na siya ay nag-audition at natanggap sa Miss Saigon.
"Oh, that was many years ago! I was seventeen then," nakangiting sabi ng 38-year-old singer-performer.
"That was 1993 and I had my mom with me, you know… I was a minor.
"It was a culture shock, but I embraced the entire experience.
“Everyone was very welcoming and there’s a lot of Pinoys in the show.
"My audition before was one week—I danced, sang, and acted.
"Then, I have to walk like a prostitute and I don’t have any idea… I think that’s where they saw the Kim in me.
"Talagang hindi ko alam ang ginawa ko and I was very raw.
“So, they were able to manage, to mold me in what they wanted."
Ano sa palagay niya ang kaibahan ng mga Pinoy sa ibang lahi, lalo na sa larangan ng pagkanta at pag-arte sa teatro?
Saad ni Joanna, "Tayo kasi, hindi masyadong teknikal.
"So, talagang may pinaghuhugutan. Alam nila na when a Pinoy sings, galing sa puso, and they see that across.
"And we delve on emotions much more.
“I don’t know… I really don’t know how to explain it, but kung nakikita mo ang Pinoy na nagpe-perform, their emotions are tangible, di ba?
"Para bang nagiging poignant ang songs dahil kuhang-kuha ang experiences kaya lumalabas sa songs.
"That’s what they see in us.”
Kaya nga raw hindi na siya nagulat kung maraming kababayan natin ang nasa cast sa bagong Miss Saigon.
TIPS FOR RACHELLE ANN. Ibinahagi rin ni Joanna ang tips na ibinigay niya kay Rachelle.
“Tinatanong niya kung ano ang dapat i-expect.
"So, sinasabi ko sa kanya na, ‘It’s not gonna be that daunting. Don’t be afraid of wearing a bikini ’coz that becomes secondary.
"’At the end of the day, it’s about acting.
“’It’s an art form. It’s not about what you gonna wear onstage.
"’That becomes less significant after you portray that certain character.’
"So, I was telling her little things like that."
Dugtong pa niya, "But Rachelle doesn’t need anything like that kasi nakuha nga siya.
"Which means meron something about her na nakita nila.
"So, alam ko na mag-e-excel siya and all the Pinoys na nasa cast—we all excel in this field."
Nagbigay rin ng tips si Joanna sa mga Pinoy cast na tulad ni Rachelle Ann ay maaaring first-timers din sa United Kingdom at sa isang grand musical play.
"Just for them to be completely open to whatever comes their way.
“Kasi, there would be a lot of surprises, nice surprises, and a lot of wonderful things in store.
"And you know, it’s a different city [London] and one of the most exciting cities that I’ve been.
"Yeah, I’ve been living there for twenty-one years and I still love it to this day.
"Marami silang matututunan doon and, again, just be open with what is there."
“Financially rewarding” din daw ang mapabilang sa cast ng Miss Saigon.
"Yeah, it’s really financially rewarding.
“But that also becomes secondary because of the experience you gain.
"You don’t think about that, but you’re gonna have a comfortable life—and that’s for sure
"And our kababayans there are all very excited…
"It’s talk of the town. It’s not just the entire city talking about it, it’s the entire world.
“So, can’t you see the pride in you as a Pinoy?
"Remember, there are lots of singers from other countries who came here [Philippines] for the audition and, yet, marami ang nakuha sa atin.
"It’s worldwide and really a big pride."
LEA SALONGA. Sa huli ay ipinahayag ni Joanna ang kanyang malaking paghanga kay Lea Salonga, na siyang unang gumanap bilang Kim sa original West End and Broadway production ng Miss Saigon.
"You know, Miss Lea is an absolute leader.
“She deserves all the accolades she gets.
"She is a great singer with a great voice… talagang iba si Miss Lea!
"And she paved the way for all of us.
"Yung admiration ko sa kanya is way above up there."