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Tall, shapely Jilline Ringle sauntered into the warm stagelight, undulating towards the audience with more curves than a bowl of hot fusilli, singing a lush, throaty version of “Come on-a My House,” and instantly I was transported back to my Nonna’s Neapolitan kitchen, where heady scents of garlic and peperone competed for my attention while Nonna’s basil-perfumed hands grabbed a meaty squeeze of my face, Nonna all the time rasping “Mia carina! … “ Hang on a second; I’m Jewish. Such is the power of Ringle’s latest — and in all senses, satisfying — cabaret, “Mondo Mangia (The World of Eating)”; one is transported to places one has truly never been. The statuesque singer, who is billed as “The six-foot redhead Amazon from Hell whom all men desire,” presents 90 minutes of enchanting music, sophisticated banter and cooking in her on-stage kitchen. And it is fair to say that as the audience’s dinner heats up (the offering on press night was gemelli con sugo amatriciana), so does the chanteuse. Philadelphia audiences know Ringle from her Barrymore-Award-nominated spin in Michael Ogborn’s hilarious musical, “Box Office of the Damned,” which, like “Mondo Mangia,” is from 1812 Productions. Ringle’s fruitful collaboration with Ogborn has borne a number of well-received cabarets that have reshaped the genre. Jersey beachgoers were treated to a season of three Ringle-Ogborn shows this summer at the Chalfonte Hotel in Cape May, where, after 10 years of performances, Ringle seems to have become the hotel’s resident cabaret artiste. At the beach she sang of cinema (in “La Dolce Vita: Movie Songs of the 1960s”) and in French (“For Me- Formidable! French Maid Easy”), but here in her Italian-American kitchen, where the Pope shares a place of honor on the wall with the Kennedys, the topic is edibles. The intense epicurean come-on of the 1950s Rosemary Clooney standard “Come on-a My House” is followed by some food songs of the novelty genre: “Don’t Touch My Tomatoes” and “If I Knew You Were Coming (I’d Have Baked a Cake).” “Novelty” sounds lightweight and throwaway; in the capable hands of Ringle, who is simultaneously chopping herbs and garlic, we are really taken on an intelligent tour of popular American music from the tradition of live, intimate performance, united by the theme of food. Perhaps “themes” of food is more accurate, as Ringle manages to blend equal time for desire, expression, sexual longing and sexual fulfillment into her menu of tunes. As the lyrics go in the luscious “Peel Me A Grape”: “You gotta wine me and dine me/ Don’t try and train me,/ Chow mein me/ Best way to serve me,/ Hors d’oeuvre me.” By the time the pasta water is roiling and the garlic is sizzling — Ringle really does cook dinner for the entire audience — the songs get hotter and spicier, too. “The Frim Fram Sauce” is explored for all its multiple entendres, and “Pizza,” from the repertoire of ribald singing comedienne Ruth Wallis, is pure adult hilarity. Although she is a reverent celebrant of the tradition of intimate cabaret, Jilline Ringle deserves to be included as one of its most gifted performers. In addition to her personal stories, patter and jokes, and a truly commanding stage presence, Ringle has a co-star of equal luminescence: her voice. She has developed it to be an instrument of thrilling power and ear-caressing flexibility, and her diction is that rarity wherein each word is clearly delivered. Even “Sick o’Chicken,” a rapid-fire rant by Philadelphia singer/songwriter Kathy McMearty, here arranged by Ogborn, gets heard in all its protean, protein-political passion. Ringle is ably accompanied by musical director Owen Robbins, who makes his humble upright sound positively orchestral at times, particularly on the heartbreaking ballad of longing for home and home cooking, “Sweet Kentucky Ham.” “Mondo Mangia” artfully teases and satiates all manner of audience appetites; in the mondo of this kitchen, nothing is served without a basting of just enough sentiment. I won’t tell you what the secret ingredient is, but I’d swear on a stack of cookbooks that it’s just like my Neapolitan Nonna used to make.

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