An older crowd at Melbourne Recital Centre’s Elizabeth Murdoch Hall settle into their seats, eager to see whether eighties film starlet Molly Ringwald will impress in her first Australian concert. Someone’s phone rings, drowning out the pianist’s opening tinkle. The crowd collectively tut-tuts.
Pianist Peter Smith tries again, with success, and the star of John Hughes films The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles slinks onto stage – a svelte figure in a tastefully low-cut black evening gown. Her voice starts of out gentle and coy, very much in tune, and hints at a controlled strength.
After her first number, 'Holding the Man', she takes a look around and remarks on the venue. “This place is impressive. You’ve really got to deliver. This isn’t some small cub – we gotta make some serious music!"
And that she does, together with her pianist and music coordinator Smith, double bass player Lloyd Swanton, and drummer Dave Goodman.
Ringwald performs mostly Great American Songbook classics – jazz, blues and showtunes. 'I Get Along Without You Except Sometimes' is particularly heartfelt; she pulls out a French number and even does a little scatting.
As promised, Ringwald’s songs are interspersed with seguing stories. She is earnest and unaffected throughout, admitting that while she is on stage singing these dramatic, romantic songs, she can see her husband side-stage playing Candy Crush. Unafraid of a joke at her own expense, she invites the audience to play a game: How many times will Ringwald hold up her album throughout the show? (The answer: seven.)
The 18 years since The Breakfast Club seem to have been kind to Ringwald. At 45 she is looking great – in fact, she may have ‘it’ more than ever, because she is now pursuing her first love, music. Her father Bob Ringwald was a blind jazz pianist and she grew up singing along to classics with him.
A particularly cute moment comes as Ringwald introduces her next song, 'Don’t Explain', written by Billie Holiday – a songstress better known as a performer than a songwriter. Ringwald gives a cheeky smile as she explains that she feels “an affinity for people like Billie Holiday who do things other than what they’re known for”.
Well played, Ringwald.