Molly Ringwald
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Q&A: Molly Ringwald

The '80s movie star on her love affair with jazz, performing at the Eisemann Center with her quartet, and appearing at the Alamo Drafthouse for a screening of The Breakfast Club.

published Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Photo: Hussein Katz
Molly Ringwald

Richardson — Her Twitter profile describes her as “actress, writer, singer, mother, your former teenage crush.” Long before Molly Ringwald was the teen queen of John Hughes’ coming-of-age movies in the 1980s (Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club), and long before playing a TV mom in ABC Family’s The Secret Life of the American Teenager and Sally Bowles in Cabaret on Broadway, Ringwald started singing traditional jazz with her jazz pianist father, Bob Ringwald, when she was 3. When she was 6, she had decided she wanted to be Bessie Smith, but acting came along to distract her.

Ringwald’s a little older than 6 now, but in the last few years, she’s turned her attention back to pursuing jazz vocals, one of her three passions along with acting and writing. Her debut album, Except…Sometimes, released in 2013, pays homage to Ringwald’s inspirations such as Smith, Ella Fitzgerald, Blossom Dearie and Susannah McCorkle. There's also a version of Sondheim's Oscar-winning "Sooner or Later," written for the movie Dick Tracy. The most contemporary song on the album is Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” the iconic song that opens and closes one of the Hughes movies Ringwald is remembered for, The Breakfast Club.

Ringwald and her jazz quartet performs An Evening With Molly Ringwald for one night only at 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14, at the Eisemann Center in Richardson. She talked to TheaterJones about the album, her father’s support and being an artist.


How did you end up singing with your dad's jazz band at such a young age? Did you go to rehearsals with him, or did he hear you singing around the house?

He heard me singing around the house. I did rehearse with him, but it was more like time that I spent with my dad and not really rehearsing.


What’s your favorite track on the album?

I like a lot of them. Maybe the title track, “I Get Along Without You Very Well (Except Sometimes).” I’m fond of “Sooner or Later.”


What inspired you to have “Don't You (Forget About Me)” turned into a jazz arrangement for your album?

As we were doing the arrangements and coming up with the song list, John Hughes passed away, so initially, we just did it in rehearsal because I was thinking about him, and I was wondering if it really could exist as a jazz song. So it was a tribute to him. I love doing covers, but as reimagined songs and not just copying someone else’s performance.


Why now for pursuing your singing passion?

It’s a little bit now or never. I had intended to do it for a long time, but I was really busy doing other stuff. It had a lot to do with meeting Peter and talking to him. [Peter Smith produced Ringwald’s album and is the pianist in her quartet.] It just seemed like the right time. I originally intended it as a side project, but then we put together the album and the tour, and it became something more.


Since he was there at the beginning, what feedback have you gotten from your dad?

He’s really, really supportive. He’s just so thrilled that I came back to music. He hasn’t critiqued anything at all, he’s just unabashedly supportive. He still plays piano—he has his own group, and he performs more than I do.


Did he offer you any advice or serve as a resource for you in creating your quartet and selecting the material for your debut album?

Photo: Hussein Katz
Molly Ringwald

No, he was just very supportive. He’s one of the first and only people I played the music for as I was going along and putting the album together. The only song he didn’t get was the one from The Breakfast Club. He asked me where I found that song and why I chose it. When I explained it to him and what it was from, he thought it was wonderful.


How about your mom? Has she been influential in your career choices?

Not musically, no. I didn’t inherit any of my musical ability from my mom, but she is also very supportive.


What can we expect from An Evening With Molly Ringwald?

You know, it’s really impossible to describe because every show is different and depends so much on the audience’s reaction, which is exactly what I love with this kind of music. I sing a lot of the songs on the album plus some from the Great American Songbook, and I talk about my inspirations for the songs and their connection to me.


You’ve written two books, When It Happens to You, a novel based on essays, and Getting the Pretty Back, an advice book. Any plans for a memoir?

Eventually, but not for a while. My first book of essays was memoir-esque. Eventually I will write an autobiography, but not any time soon.


What do you consider yourself first and foremost—an actor, a writer or a singer?

I consider myself an artist. Sometimes I think I have a story to tell, and sometimes it’s in print, and sometimes, it’s in song.


What do your children think of the jazz singer side of you?

They love it, especially since it's what I do before I put them to bed usually.  My son, Roman, is on one of the tracks, “Exactly Like You.” We brought him into the studio and tickled him, so it’s his laugh you hear on the track. Then, of course, the other kids (Roman’s twin sister, Adele, and their older sister, Mathilda) wanted to know what song they were going to be on!


You've been on Broadway. Any plans to return? Any bucket list roles you'd like to do?

I would love to! We recently moved back to New York, so I have a much better chance that I can do that now. I would love to do Chekhov or Shakespeare, which I have never done on stage. I would love to do Cole Porter.


The night before your show at the Eisemann Center, you're appearing at Alamo Draft House for a special screening of The Breakfast Club. When people come to those appearances, what is it they ask the most?

They just like to hear a little bit about behind the scenes and how the movies were made. They always ask me if I’m still in touch with the other cast members and if I can still put lipstick on like that.


And can you?

It's movie magic.


» You can listen to Ringwald's album Except...Sometimes hereThanks For Reading

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Q&A: Molly Ringwald
The '80s movie star on her love affair with jazz, performing at the Eisemann Center with her quartet, and appearing at the Alamo Drafthouse for a screening of The Breakfast Club.
by Cathy O'Neal

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