Camille O'Sullivan at the new Irish Arts Center. PHOTO BY NIR ARIELI

O'Sullivan conjures up cabaret greats at IAC

It’s dark. You’re in aisle seat E1 in the tiered seating of the new Irish Arts Center, 726 11th Ave. You feel a finger being run down your upper arm from your shoulder to your elbow. Startled, you look up to see the raven-haired, red-lipsticked woman in a sequinned dress and a black top who has surprised you. She smiles, a bit crooked, and her eyes, a bit scrunched up, twinkle. You’re about to say something when you realize you’ve been inducted into the show by the star herself, Camille O’Sullivan, who is making her entrance.

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Her show, “Where Are We Now?”, though backed by a full band and sound effects, is an intimate affair. Returning to performances after a Covid-enforced hiatus, she invites you into her living room and muses in song and conversation on the past 21 months. Songs of love and loss, sombre and warm, include some by Waits, Cave, Bowie and Cohen. But you’ll also hear her rock Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” and fiercely sing Brel’s “Amsterdam.” The atmosphere switches back and forward between the living room and the smoky jazz club. Camille’s sultry French accent, presence and voice will put you in mind of many great cabaret artists. For this reviewer, she conjured up the late Anne Bushnell singing “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.” 

The Irish‑American audience is acknowledged with Philip Chevron’s “Thousands Are Sailing.” When you hear that, you begin to wonder “will she…?” Sure enough, as it’s almost Christmas and we’re in New York, she closes with a rousing and unapologetic rendering of The Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York.” A fitting end to a wonderful evening.

Camille’s band, comprising Feargal Murray, piano; Paul Byrne, drums; Steve Fraser, guitar; Omar Kabir, brass; and Jessica Lurie, saxophone, are fully integrated into the show and provide some brilliant solos.

“Where Are We Now?” is on through Dec. 31: Box Office, 888-616-0274, 10a.m.-6 p.m., Monday-Friday;