Molly Ringwald is set to hit the stage in the musical “Sweet Charity,” September 12th-17th at The San Diego Civic Center, as the taxi dancer with a heart of gold, Charity Hope Valentine, following in the literal footsteps of Gwen Verdon and Shirley MacLaine.
Ringwald has been surrounded by music her entire life. Born to blind jazz pianist, Robert Scott Ringwald, the youngest Ringwald daughter would frequently make appearances with her father’s jazz band.
At the age of six, she released an album entitled, “I Wanna Be Loved By You, Molly Sings.” She also scored gigs on “The New Mickey Mouse Club” at eight, the West Coast production of “Annie” at ten, and a one season stint on “The Facts of Life.”
By 1982, she was making a name for herself on the silver screen in the film Tempest, alongside Gena Rowlands and Susan Sarandon.
But, when she was teamed with director John Hughes in 1984’s Sixteen Candles, her ascent up the ladder of teen stardom began.
While most teenagers her age were worried about breaking out, Ringwald was breaking out in a different respect; as an actress who brought a certain air of realism to her roles of the outcast and the ostracized – something that many a gay teenager could relate to.
In 1985’s The Breakfast Club she starred as Claire Standish, the popular antithesis of her Sixteen Candles Samantha Baker character.
In 1986, her teen queen trifecta was completed with Pretty In Pink with her portrayal of Andie Walsh, a girl on the wrong side of the popularity tracks.
She ventured outside of the Hughes bubble in the teen pregnancy flick, For Keeps, before securing adult roles in The Pick Up Artist, Fresh Horses, Betsy’s Wedding and the TV movie “Something To Live For: The Alison Gertz Story” as a real life woman battling AIDS.
In the 90’s, there was time spent living abroad in Paris, the television show “Townies,” the mini-series “Stephen King’s The Stand,” and marriage to Valery Lameignère (the two have subsequently divorced).
The 2000’s saw Ringwald spoof her teen queen image in Not Another Teen Movie, because the filmmakers “offered me a ridiculous amount of money” as she put it, and it also showed that she had both a sense of humor about her place in the pantheon of teen roles, and had grown beyond them. She returned to the stage with turns in “Modern Orthodox,” “Enchanted April,” “Cabaret” and “When Harry Met Sally.”
But, her biggest role took place offstage, becoming a mother with the birth of daughter, Mathilda in 2003, with boyfriend, Panio Gianopoulos.
Ringwald spoke with The Gay and Lesbian Times in between rehearsals for “Sweet Charity.” In 1986, she was featured on the cover of Time Magazine with a headline that read: “Ain’t she sweet.” And Ringwald was in respect to answering my pop culture queries about days gone by, and very charitable into letting us into her life today.
Gay & Lesbian Times: What was it like having your teenage years documented on film?
Molly Ringwald: At the time, it didn’t really seem all that significant; it was just what I was doing. I didn’t know that those were my awkward years until after (laughs). Actually, you know what, I don’t think that my teen years were all that awkward; I think it was my early 20’s were kind of awkward.
I think it seems kind of strange in retrospect, ’cause not that many people have their first kiss documented on film. And, it’s kind of like a double edged thing; I think it’s kind of neat in one way, and in another way it’s sort of perverse –but, there it is.
GLT: How did it feel to be voted the #1 teen star of all time on VH-1’s “100 Greatest Teen Stars?”
MR: Well as my mom said, it’s better than being number two (laughs).
GLT: Of the characters you played in the John Hughes films-who were you most like, and why?
MR: At the time, I was probably most like Samantha. I was kind of at the age where I felt like an ugly duckling, definitely. I was sort of like the character in Pretty In Pink, as well. Because of what I did I was sort of different than everybody else at school. So, I kind of got ostracized for that, much in the same way that she’s ostracized for being from the so-called wrong side of the tracks and not having the right clothes to wear and everything.
I really wasn’t at all like the character in The Breakfast Club. I put elements of my sister, who was a popular sorority girl, and she was in this sorority called “The Puffs,” and I kind of knew about the popular girls from that.
GLT: Which theatre role was the most challenging?
MR: I think that the theatre role that’s most challenging is the one that I’m doing right now. Maybe I just say that because I’m in rehearsals right now, and I’m learning all these dance numbers, and thinking, “Holy shit! Can I do this?” (laughs)
For me, I always like to do things that scare me a little bit. And, definitely dancing is something that I gave up on really early, when I got sidetracked by my film career. So, this is something that I’m revisiting in a really intense way.
But then all the theatre roles I’ve done have been challenging in one way or another. “Cabaret” was incredibly emotionally challenging, and physically, too – there was a lot of running around. All theatre is pretty much a grind, much more so than film; film is like you wait around and then go and do your shot-it’s such a cakewalk compared to theatre.
I’ve always liked the feeling of doing live theatre, it’s the closest you can get to a regular job, I think, in our business.
GLT: How do you balance motherhood and doing a national tour, like “Sweet Charity?”
MR: I’m actually realizing that this is the first time that I’m taking on such a big role and being a mom. My first play that I did after she was born, she was 8 or 9 months, was “When Harry Met Sally” in The West End. And that was fun, because we got to go over to London, and she got to be a little baby in the London parks.
Then I came back and I did “Modern Orthodox,” and I feel like I really didn’t find a good balance then. I felt like I was spending way too much time just totally devoting myself to that.
So this time I’m trying to go home and spend a couple of hours where I’m not listening to the music, and I’m not practicing dance steps or running lines. I’m just running around with her, and doing kid stuff. I have to for her and also for me, because that bond is really important to me.
GLT: What can audiences expect from your rendition of “Sweet Charity?”
MR: I’m still finding that out now. Hopefully, they’ll be about to relate to this character. I don’t want her to be caricatural at all. A lot of people, I think, are turned off by musical theatre, because it’s this kind of acting where everything is like out; all of the talking is just sort of something that fills in between the dance numbers.
My “Charity” is not like that at all. I think that the book and the script and this woman, should be every bit as important as the dance numbers and the singing numbers. So, I’d like to bring that to it.
Hopefully, they can expect to see something really exciting and fun – and a great head of red hair!
For ticket information log onto www.broadwaysd.com