Molly Ringwald - in full swing
The ‘80s icon will headline the Provincetown Jazz Festival
By Haley Cote
Actress. Writer. Singer. Molly Ringwald is a true triple threat. One might even call her a quadruple threat, as she danced in the starring role of the 2006-2007 national tour of Sweet Charity. While many know her as a screen star from the John Hughes’ classics The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink, Ringwald is also a bestselling author—her works include When it Happens to You: A Novel in Stories and Getting the Pretty Back—and a jazz singer. In 2013 she released her debut album, Except Sometimes, a collection of standards from the Great American Songbook. Since then, the mother of three has been performing close to 70 concerts a year across the U.S. and internationally, playing in a total of eight different countries, including the U.S., with her band.
Her next stop is at the Provincetown Jazz Festival, where Ringwald will make her Cape Cod debut Thursday, August 10, at 7 p.m., at The Crown & Anchor on Commercial Street in Provincetown. Accompanying her will be Alex Smith on piano, Ron Ormsby on bass, and event founder and producer Bart Weisman on the drums. Japanese pianist Takumi Kakimoto—also making his Provincetown Jazz Festival debut—will open the show. On Monday, August 14, the festival makes its way to the Cotuit Center for the Arts, where clarinetist Ken Peplowski and duo Atla and Matt DeChamplain will both make their Provincetown Jazz Festival debuts and perform during the festival’s second and final night. The show begins at 7:30 p.m.
“We provide an opportunity for jazz lovers to see performers from around the world at concerts in Provincetown and Cotuit,” Weisman says of the festival, now in its 13th year. This year, a portion of the event proceeds will be donated to JAZZ in the Schools, an organization that presents jazz music to schools in every town on the Cape. “Molly Ringwald has been singing jazz for many years,” Weisman says, “and it is wonderful to have her at the festival, where she will be able to experience Provincetown for the first time.”
Ringwald’s passion for jazz was ignited at the age of 3, when she started singing with her piano-playing father, Bob Ringwald, and his Fulton Street Jazz Band. In an interview with Cape Cod LIFE, Ringwald says that music ultimately took a back seat to acting. “I assumed, as much as you can as a child, that I would pursue music,” she recalls. “I was simultaneously acting and dancing as a kid, and the acting just kind of took over.” At the age of 10, Ringwald was cast in her first professional role as an orphan in West Coast productions of Broadway’s Annie, and soon after landed her first TV role on The Facts of Life. Then, at the age of 13, she starred in the film Tempest (1982)—a role that earned the budding young actress a Golden Globe nomination.
“I wasn't really interested in becoming a pop star—it wasn’t really a thing in my era—so I felt that I had to make the choice, and I chose acting,” Ringwald says. “But singing is always something that I just did for fun, and I had it in the back of my head that I'd like to put a group together to explore performing this music I love as an adult.”
Out of all of her creative endeavors, Ringwald, who has recently appeared in ABC Family’s The Secret Life of the American Teenager and CW’s new series Riverdale, says singing gives her the most joy and “fires up” a different part of her brain. However, she also finds that acting, writing and singing are ultimately connected. “I approach every song the way I do material as an actress,” she explains. “I look at the words musically much in the same way I do as a writer, so somehow it feels similar but different. Jazz is very collaborative and requires a lot of listening, which is actually a great exercise for an actor. I constantly feel like I am learning from the incredible musicians I get to work with.”
When Ringwald takes the stage in Provincetown, attendees can experience her take on traditional jazz and hear selections from Except Sometimes—which features standards like “I’ll Take Romance” and “The Very Thought of You,” as well as a jazzy, nostalgia-inducing rendition of Simple Minds’ 1985 hit “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” a song forever linked to The Breakfast Club. “My shows are always a little different depending on the audience,” Ringwald says, “but generally I would say they’re fun, at times emotional, and people tend to feel good after—I realize that sounds a bit like therapy.”
Stritch, Christopher make jazz festival debuts
Cape Cod summers are packed with festivals celebrating everything from films to dance to music. This month, the 12th annual Provincetown Jazz Festival offers three concerts over two nights, with the mission of bringing high-quality jazz performers to the Cape and showcasing some different styles of the music called jazz.
Making their Provincetown Jazz Festival debuts are: Billy Stritch, Scott Avidon, Evan Christopher, and Nikki Parrott.
On Thursday August 11, the action is at the Crown & Anchor in Provincetown. Singer-pianist Billy Stritch will perform a tribute to legendary jazz singer Mel Tormé with selections from Tormé’s arrangements in what is known as the Mel Tormé Songbook. Stritch will be accompanied by Ron Ormsby on bass and Bart Weisman on drums, according to festival information. Stritch tours on the national jazz and cabaret scene, accompanying and arranging for stars who include Liza Minnelli, Linda Lavin and Marilyn Maye. He’s appeared on a variety of TV talk shows and co-wrote the 1994 Grammy Award-winning song “Does He Love You,” which was a hit for Reba McEntire and Linda Davis.
Also on Thursday, Scott Avidon – a sax player, composer and educator – will perform with Fabiano de Castro on piano, and Ormsby and Weisman.
The program for August 15 at Cotuit Center for the Arts will feature clarinetist/composer Evan Christopher, who will play the “contemporary early-jazz” style he’s specialized in through time in jazz hub New Orleans. Christopher moved to The Big Easy from California in 1994 and since then has performed at the Newport Jazz Festival and on tours around the United States and Europe. Accompanying Christopher will be Fred Boyle (piano), Nicki Parrott (bass), and Weisman (drums).
Parrott, an Australian double-bassist and jazz vocalist, will open for Christopher. Voted the Best Jazz Vocalist in 2007 and 2008 by Japan’s Swing Journal, Parrott performed for more than a decade with the Les Paul Trio. She has since worked with many noted musicians, played for Broadway shows, and now performs regularly at jazz festivals and venues around the world. Boyle and Weisman will accompany her.