Joanna Ampil as the Engineer; Rodel Gonzalez all worked up for Side A gig tonight

One might think Joanna Ampil has nothing more to prove in Miss Saigon, after having played lead character Kim for several years in London, Sydney, Manchester, Dublin, and Edinburgh.

But a big surprise on 22 September came from talent manager Noel Ferrer, who posted on Facebook that Ampil will play the Engineer in the award-winning theater musical’s 2023 run.

Ampil was quoted in a statement: “To give new life to the musical that changed my life and to sing the beloved score of Claude Michel Schonberg and Alan Boubil once again is a wild dream coming true.”

Meanwhile, Rodel Gonzalez is all worked up as Side A’s latest reunion concert happens on 24 September at the Newport Performing Arts Theater in Pasay.

Tickets to the 1,500-capacity venue have sold out.

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF NEWPORT WORLD HOTELS
THE original Side A: Joey Benin, Mar Dizon, Pido Lalimarmo, Rodel Gonzalez, and Naldy Gonzalez.

“I don’t think there’s enough words to describe it, kasi para talagang it’s so surreal and at the same time it brought back many memories of the past, kasi good memories naman talaga,” Gonzalez said in a recent interview on Daily Tribune’s online show Straight Talk.

The Side A cofounder was referring to the first time he played live again with his bandmates last April at 19 East — following a couple of online benefit shows amid the pandemic.

The two 19 East gigs drew an SRO crowd which left many others clamoring for more dates. Which was the reason for holding a bigger show at Newport.

There were two smaller shows held 10 September in Laoag, Ilocos Norte, and 17 September in Cebu.

It’s been a long, exciting ride for Gonzalez, who studied Fine Arts at the University of Santo Tomas and thought he would follow the footsteps of his father, a professional painter.

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF fb.com/joanna ampil
JOANNA Ampil

But when Gonzalez caught the music bug, there was no turning back as he dropped out of school and first performed as a folksinger before forming a full band and earning his keep.

For several years in the late 1980s, Side A — then composed of Gonzalez, brother Naldy Gonzalez, Pido Lalimarmo, Joey Benin, Kelly Badon, and Mar Dizon — was the biggest band in the live circuit.

Gonzalez quit, got Joey Generoso to replace him as front man, formed another band, Second Wind, before migrating to the United States.

In the US he got back into painting and made good — getting hired as a Disney licensed artist, and lately, Marvel, too.

He’s been living a comfortable life in Florida with wife Lunei. Yet, there’s an “itch” to play music time and again, like tonight.


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