Dialogue would help with Molly Ringwald's shaky direction

JON BREAM | Updated 4/24/2013

REVIEW: Before the actress-turned-singer landed at the Dakota Jazz Club on Tuesday, she should have enlisted someone like her late, great director John Hughes to give her some sage advice.

They should have billed it as “The Dinner Club,” starring Molly Ringwald.

And before the 45-year-old actress-turned-singer landed at the Dakota Jazz Club on Tuesday night, she should have enlisted someone like her late, great director John Hughes to give her some sage advice on how to do this jazz singer thing between acting gigs. We can just imagine what Hughes might have said to the star of his 1980s, pop music-obsessed films “Pretty in Pink” and “The Breakfast Club.”

Ringwald: “Good evening, Minneapolis. Usually we’re the Molly Ringwald Quartet. But tonight’s it’s the Molly Ringwald Trio.”

Hughes: Wait a minute. You forgot to explain. The alto saxophonist is missing, right? He played a key role on your new album of standards, “Except Sometimes.” Explain yourself. Sometimes. You’re off to an awkward start.

Ringwald: “So speaking of spring [everyone giggles]. Seriously. I decided I’m going to conjure up spring for you. That will be my gift to you.”

Hughes: Good timing there. Spring is overdue in the Twin Cities. But when you sang “They Say It’s Spring,” you did it with more of a Broadway voice than a jazz singer’s voice.

Ringwald: “I have exactly 11 copies of my CD to sign. There were supposed to be two boxes shipped here. … What should we do now? I see lots of love-dovey people here this evening. There’s always that special someone you don’t necessarily tell your husband or wife about.”

Hughes: Who’s running this operation? Pack the CDs yourself. Ninety percent of the fans are turning out because you were one their favorite movie stars. They want an autographed CD. Nice setup, though, for “My Old Flame.” Good clear enunciation. But you seemed a little tentative like when you glided up singing “the sky,” you sounded nervous enough to want to pull the cord on your parachute.

Ringwald: “I recorded this song twice, once for [pianist] Peter Smith’s album and once for my album — when I was pregnant and again when I wasn’t pregnant. Go listen and drop me an e-mail and let me know what you think.”

Hughes: Um, that was a little obtuse. And then when you sang “I’ll Take Romance,” it felt like you knew the lyrics but you didn’t know the feelings of the lyrics. With singing songs, it’s not just about rehearsing the tunes, it’s about living the songs and experiencing those feelings when you deliver the tunes.

Ringwald: “The next song is another one I just recently started to sing. Peter arranged it. It’s by Billie Holiday, who was known for singing, not writing, songs. It’s called ‘Don’t Explain.’ ”

Hughes: Nice move to sit on a stool for this slow, penetrating song. You got inside it. There was pain in the pauses in your phrasing. You went deep. Loved the way you kept repeating ‘don’t explain’ in a pained voice at the end. This suggests your potential as a jazz singer.

Ringwald: “How’s everybody’s dinner? Their food is very good. I had a salmon sandwich.”

Hughes: Who wrote this script? And when you introduced one song as “this is track 9 on the CD,” hello? Please say something intelligent, something that’s as classy and fitting as your black cocktail dress.

Ringwald: “What time is it?”

Hughes: Really, you do need a script. The set list should dictate the time, not your watch. Be in the moment. Pay attention to the lyrics and the crowd, not your watch.