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Pretty in pink and swell on stage

Molly Ringwald hits the road, leaving behind European stages
by: ©2006 ANDREW ECCLES, “Sweet Charity” star Molly Ringwald has been getting steady work for 25 years but is 
still best-known for playing redheaded ’80s outcasts.

It takes a certain kind of skill to play the role of Charity Hope Valentine in 'Sweet Charity.' She's naive to the point of incredulity (ours as well as hers), which makes her something of a cartoon character.

Having played some of the greats, such as Sally Bowles in 'Cabaret,' Molly Ringwald's approach is to play against the way Charity is written.

'Sally Bowles was a con artist - self-invented, self-aware and self-destructive,' Ringwald says. 'Charity is the polar opposite, very giving of her heart, there's nothing manipulative about her. She's a really fun, wide-eyed and happy-go-lucky, a cup-half-full girl. But I try to make her real.'

In 1966 director-choreographer Bob Fosse adapted Federico Fellini's 'Nights of Cabiria,' which is about a happy hooker in postwar Rome. Fosse set his story in the slightly less threatening world of the New York taxi dance hall. (The taxi dance is what came before the lap dance; it involved hiring a woman with whom to slow dance for half an hour around a shady dance hall.)

Lyrics by the great Dorothy Fields in this musical include 'Hey, Big Spender,' 'Where Am I Going?' and 'If My Friends Could See Me Now.' 'Sweet Charity' is a classic American musical, with happy hookers, snazzy songs and great footwork.

Ringwald, 38, has come a long way since her days as a child entertainer (she put out an album at age 6) and then as a hero to teens in the coming-of-age hit movies 'Sixteen Candles,' 'The Breakfast Club' and 'Pretty in Pink.'

Few people seem to know she appeared in Jean-Luc Godard's 'King Lear' in 1987 as Cordelia. She also performed in French in 'Enfants de Salaud' (1996).

Since those heady Hollywood days she has diversified back into a mixture of stage musical and movie work.

Recent credits include acting in the Australian movie 'Cut' opposite Kylie Minogue and a stint in London's West End in the stage musical of 'When Harry Met Sally.'

'I consider myself an actress, whether it's for stage, film or TV,' she says. Though she says it would be difficult to choose among the three, for the next nine months she'll be doing stage. 'Stage is a little harder,' she says. 'It's more physically demanding.'

After living in France for four years, marrying and then divorcing a Frenchman, she now has settled down with boyfriend Panio Gianopoulos. Or rather, they are now on the road together, with their daughter, Mathilda, almost 3, and a nanny.

Gianopoulos' name might be familiar to Portlanders from Tin House literary magazine, where his work has appeared. He's taking a break from his day job in publishing (he edited JT Leroy's 'Sarah' and 'iPod Therefore I Am' by Dylan Jones) to hit the road and write a novel.

Coming up next …

Ringwald has plenty of say in what jobs she takes. She has a wish list and puts the word out on what she's interested in doing next. She leans toward revivals, anything with great standards in it.

'I had wanted to do 'Sweet Charity' for a while, so it was great when it came up. And I'd really love to do an original musical,' she says. She has sung with Elvis Costello before and would like it if he sent some songs her way. It seems the ups and downs of Hollywood have not hurt her, and she retains some hipness and credibility.

'I've been friends with Stephin Merritt (songwriter for the Magnetic Fields) for a while,' she says. Merritt always has been a prolific songwriter - one of his projects, the Gothic Archies, has a CD due out Oct. 10 of his songs from the 'Lemony Snicket' audio books, 'The Tragic Treasury: Songs From a Series of Unfortunate Events.'

'I would love him to write a musical, and I'd be first in line to sing it,' Ringwald says.

America loves a second act.

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