As Hit Musical 'Cats' Returns to Hong Kong, Actress Joanna Ampil Talks About Starring Role as Grizabella

The cast of "Cats."
Alessandro Pinna/Billboard Radio China

The cast of "Cats." 

Having found massive success in London's West End, Cats, one of the biggest hits and longest-running musicals in musical theater history, has returned to Hong Kong, and is currently running at the Lyric Theatre, bringing with it a feast for the eyes and ears.

Since its world premiere, Cats has been presented in over 30 countries, translated into 15 languages, and seen by more than 73 million people worldwide. Both the original London and Broadway cast recordings won Grammy Awards for best cast album.

Billboard Radio China invited Joanna Ampil, who plays the role of Grizabella and sings the poignant hit song "Memory," to talk about her adolescent experience, her preparation and interpretation of the role and the play, the difficulty she faces, and her expectation for Hong Kong and Asian audiences.

When Joanna was still a teenager, she was chosen to play the part of Kim in Miss Saigon after her first audition in Manila, which showed her talents and determination. Following her experience there, she moved to London and never left. Across her career, she has played various characters in different shows and has always remained passionate, which matters a lot for someone who wants to stay in the theater world.

In order to play her role vividly, she noted that she observes cats through watching dozens of documentaries and clips because she is allergic to real cats and tries to imitate all of their movements, even at risk of developing some serious pain. Finally, she's at the point that putting the costume on has her feeling like a real cat.

Cats is a revolutionary production, from a fantastical oversized junkyard setting to the way it is directed through the collaboration of many geniuses. Such an experiment sparks creativity and provides audiences with a slightly different yet faithful feeling and a sense of pure escapism.

Playing Grizabella can be tough, though, since Joanna has had to isolate herself from the other artists from time to time during the rehearsal to really stand in the shoes of Grizabella and experience her bitter loneliness. It's through this commitment to the character and understanding of her loneliness that she can make an impact on the stage.

When talking about her expectations for the reaction of Hong Kong audiences, Joanna says that every place has its own peculiar emotions towards Cats, and although Cats has been presented in Hong Kong many times, she is confident that people will like this updated version. 

Check out the full interview with Joanna Ampil at <a href="" target="_blank">Billboard Radio China</a>.