Why Joanna Ampil tried to quit ‘Ang Larawan’ twice
She supported me when everyone else doubted me, including myself,” said awarded musical theater actress Joanna Ampil, who related that she would have quit doing the musical film “Ang Larawan” if not for her costar Rachel Alejandro.
Joanna, who plays Candida, said the rehearsals had been “very difficult and painful” for her, but she chose to carry on because of Rachel, who plays her sister Paula in the film directed by Loy Arcenas. It is based on the stage play “A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino” by the late National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin.
“The rehearsals were tough because I was taking the character home. I tried to quit twice, but GR (Girlie Rodis, one of the producers) didn’t let me go. Rachel was there for me… We really bonded. It worked for the story as well,” said the UK-based Joanna, who is currently in Manila to promote the movie and her recently released single, “Memory.”
Joanna described Loy as “an extremely meticulous and pedantic director… It gives me comfort in a way because I’m also pedantic when it comes to my work. Because of his keen eye on details, I know that I don’t have to worry about these things anymore,” she said. “It took a year to rehearse the whole thing. We had to rehearse even the lip-synched parts, when to breathe in between phrases, when to start crying. We did this so the movie would be perfect.”
Joanna said she had not seen any of Loy’s full-length films, particularly “Niño” and “REquieme!,” but “just by working with Loy, I know that his films are both good. He is a very intelligent person. What I love about him is that he doesn’t go for the cliché,” she pointed out. “For example, he told me, ‘I know how you’re going to say this line normally, but I want you to interpret it in a completely different way.’ He makes his actors think. I always want a good challenge.”
She added: “He really taught me a lot of things. We had our ups and downs. It wasn’t perfect, but it turned out amazing.”
Joaquin’s play was turned into a black-and-white film in 1965 by the late National Artist for Theater and Film Lamberto Avellana. About 20 years ago, Rolando Tinio, also national artist for theater and literature, wrote the libretto, with Ryan Cayabyab penning the music.
“Ang Larawan” is making a bid to join the 2017 Metro Manila Film Festival in December. “We have high hopes for it. It is a film that will outlive us. It’s a very important literary piece. It should be part of the curriculum in schools because it’s a classic and it talks about our culture. I think the youth should learn about it. People will enjoy this because apart from the comedy, there’s drama, and the music of Mr. C (Cayabyab’s nickname). This was what got me through the rehearsals. Mr. C was my ray of sunshine.”
Also part of the main cast are Paulo Avelino, Celeste Legaspi, Zsa Zsa Padilla, Nonie Buencamino, Menchu Lauchengco, Sandino Martin and Robert Arevalo. They are supported by Ogie Alcasid, Dulce, Nanette Inventor, Bernardo Bernardo, Noel Trinidad, Rayver Cruz, Jaime Fabregas, Leo Rialp, Jojit Lorenzo, Cris Villonco and Aicelle Santos.
In May, Joanna recorded the single “Memory,” the most popular song from the musical “Cats.” It was released on June 17 on Spotify and iTunes. Her version of “Love is Always Better,” from the musical “Bridges of Madison County,” will also be released soon.
The West End production of “Cats,” where Joanna plays Grizabella, will kick off its Western Europe and Scandinavian tours with shows in Munich in July.
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