Arts & Culture

Global Theater Superstar Joanna Ampil Comes Home to Manila to Star in Waitress

Ths locally produced musical opens in Manila on November 9.

We’ll be seeing more of musical theater star Joanna Ampil this holiday season as she alternates between international shows in the world tour of Cats (she reprises her role as Grizabella) and on the local stage as she takes on the part of Jenna in Waitress. The latter, a hit Broadway musical with music and lyrics by singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles, opens in Manila on November 9. 

Adapted from an indie film of the same name, Waitress follows leading lady Jenna, a waitress at a diner with a talent for baking pies. Audiences will laugh and feel for this character as she courses through the challenges of an unhappy life and finds her own strength again.

Joanna Ampil as Jenna

With international projects left and right, it’s a rare event to have Ampil grace the local stage these days. When the acclaimed actress does come home, however, she makes a show of it.  Last year, it was on the big screen. Her portrayal of the distraught and desperate Candida Marasigan in the MMFF Best Picture Ang Larawan earned her several accolades. She took home back-to-back Best Actress awards at the Metro Manila Film Festival and the URIAN Awards.

Ampil’s track record includes performances on London’s West End, where she was cast in musicals such as Miss Saigon, Les Miserables, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Avenue Q. 

Ampil’s role in Waitress marks her return to an Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group production, after her acclaimed performance as Frances in the 2015 staging of The Bridges of Madison County.

Ampil’s casting was a dream come true for the production’s director, Bobby Garcia. He shares, “I always wanted Joanna to play Jenna, but I wasn’t sure that we would be able to get her as she is still touring the world for Cats,” but in a twist of fate, they were able to work her schedule out. “Joanna is one of the finest musical theater performers we have in the country and it is always a joy to come into rehearsals and work with her.”


Likewise, the actress is thrilled about the part, as she exclaims she’s a big Sara Bareilles fan. “It will be an exciting challenge,” she says, “but the idea of being directed by Bobby once again truly excites me.” She also calls the opportunity a “wonderful gift and surprise.”

Alongside Ampil’s Jenna are diner friends Becky and Dawn, played by Bituin Escalante and Maronne Cruz respectively.

Maronne Cruz

Bituin Escalante

Catch Joanna as Jenna in Waitress, which opens on November 9 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati. Tickets are now available on

About The Author
Hannah Lazatin
Senior Staff Writer
Hannah is a communications graduate from Ateneo de Manila University. She’s originally from Pampanga and from a big, close-knit family who likes to find a reason to get together at the dinner table. Experiences inspire her. “Once, at a restaurant, I received an interpretation of my second name ‘Celina,’ and it meant 'someone who tries everything once' and that is me through and through,” she says. As for the job, she wants her “readers to be inspired by the stories of the people we feature and to move them to reach for greater things.”
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