Circa Two, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

02/04/2022 - 16/04/2022

Production Details

Created by Jane Keller and Michael Nicholas Williams
Directed by K.C. Kelly
Musical Direction by Michael Nicholas Williams

Presented by Hurst First

‘It’s delightful, it’s delicious, it’s de-lovely.’

Third time lucky! Sundays at Ira’s will open on 2 April 2022.

Jane’s Great Aunt Alice was a close personal friend of Ira Gershwin and was a regular guest at his Sunday Soirées. Other regulars were Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Noël Coward, George Gershwin, and many others.

Alice dined out for years on the stories of rivalries, feuds, and great friendships. Told with humour, charm and interlaced with songs from these marvellous early 20th Century composers, Sundays at Ira’s is a nostalgic and entertaining night out. Jane is accompanied by Michael on piano.

‘…extraordinary versatility and elegance. The humour, pathos, and haunting lyrics have audiences transfixed.’

Sunday at Ira’s
Circa Two
2-16 Apr | $25 – $38
$30 Specials – Fri 1 (Preview) & Sun 3 April 2022
Tues – Thurs 7.30pm, Fri & Sat 7pm, Sun 4.30pm

Theatre , Musical ,

Let Yourself Go

Review by Jo Hodgson 04th Apr 2022

‘’S wonderful! ’S marvelous!’, ‘Wasn’t it Romantic?’, ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz’, ‘Let’s face the music and dance’ …  

Do these lyrics get you humming? Whether they do and don’t, get along to Circa for a night of nostalgic song and storytelling.  

Circa Two is the perfect setting for an intimate journey back to the time of musical legends George and Ira Gershwin, in a cosy Deco style living room, complete with stylish drinks trolley and upright piano. The only thing missing is the cloud of smoke from the ash trays atop the piano which would have added another layer to Deb McGuire’s already atmospheric lighting design.

It has been a three-year journey to get to Circa from the initial debut of this show at the Napier Art Deco Festival but, thankfully, Sundays at Ira’s is here and what a delightful sojourn through music known and unknown from this prolific 1930s musical era. Tin Pan Alley genre, the rise of film musicals and music theatre and a time synonymous with greats like Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Judy Garland, Ethel Merman, Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. 

Now, you don’t have to be nearly 100 to be able to enjoy this show, because the music of this era is well and truly still with us today. So many of these songs have been reinvented over and over again by so many wonderful singers and bands, and the ‘kids’ of today can hear their updated take with the enchanting group Postmodern Jukebox bringing the crooner songs into the 21st Century.

But here with Jane Keller and Michael Nicholas Williams, there is an authentic heart wrapped around this whole story. It’s like snuggling up on the couch with a favourite blanket, or a favourite someone, when we hear the familiar refrains of ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’, ‘The Man I Love’, ‘These Foolish Things’, while also being introduced to many other songs by the Gershwins’ contemporaries, such as Irving Berlin’s ‘We Saw the Sea’, Kay Swift’s hilarious ‘Let’s go eat worms in the garden’and music by Rogers and Hart, and Hammerstein, and Cole Porter.

Devised by Jane, Michael and also Michael Vinten, with direction by KC Kelly, the music is interwoven with the diary entries and characterisations of Jane’s Great Aunt Alice who, getting frustrated with the “pounding piano from upstairs”, unexpectedly stumbles in on George and Ira Gershwin’s afternoon soiree’s with many of the aforementioned great composers and becomes more than just a regular attendee.

In true parlour song fashion, there are sing-a-long games and rollicking medleys to pack in as many renditions of this lush repertoire as possible.

There is drama, nuance, pathos and humour, all beautifully crafted, realised and performed by Jane with such delicious support from Michael on the piano. Given that George Gershwin was such a magnificent writer of music for the piano alone too, it is fitting that Michael is also featured in solo preludes and orchestral style overtures, played with dexterity and beauty.

I’m assuming that the various musical arrangements are by both Michael Nicholas Williams and Michael Vinten, but I’m not absolutely sure as they are not mentioned in the programme. In any case they are excellently constructed and there seem to be improv-esque ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ references a plenty – which may be Gershwin referencing himself or part of the clever arrangements.  

Jane is such an elegant and poised performer – huge praise to Meredith Dooley for the construction of her Act 1 coat – and with her rich alto voice, her storytelling and diction is absolutely on point. While at times the blocking feels a little static with much anchored front and centre delivery, the absolute stand out moments are her hysterical comic timing and her fearless characterisation of songs like Cole Porter’s  ‘Kate the Great’; her dramatic delivery, particularly when inhabiting a specific character like in ‘Vodka’ (which looks like a collaboration between Oscar Hammerstein and George Gershwin); her easy and warm dialogue inviting the audience in as if to her own home; and the torch songs, deeply haunting in their expression.

After such a tumultuous time with so much flux and change, I am sitting here with a huge grin on my face, tapping my toes, and then to also be allowed to sing for a moment in a theatre (masked!) is such a joyous way to spend an evening – and with artists of such high calibre as these two! We are privileged. So in the words of the opening number by Irving Berlin, just ‘Let Yourself Go’.


Richard Keller April 6th, 2022

Great show Jane and Michael, and great review, Jo.  However, I think you missed an opportunity to describe what makes this show so intriguing.  Having seen the show in its original form, I couldn't help but notice how the second half was refined for this updated version.  The story line is an interesting suggestion about Jane's Great Aunt Alice (The audience would wonder if is it true, or how much is true?)  And the songs would capture the times (20s and 30s) and themes of those composers (Gershwin, et al).  But in this updated version, the story and the songs are melded together seamlessly.  The story introduces the lyric and the lyric continues the story, and on and on between text and lyric in a believable flow.  The listener is treated to an in depth interpretation of one lyric after another by the context of the story, and the story gains increasing credibility (whether true or not).  Thank you Jane, KC, and the two Michaels for the knowledge, dedication and inspiration you put into this unique approach.

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A nostalgic and heartfelt back journey to Broadway's heyday

Review by Sarah Catherall 04th Apr 2022

If you’re a fan of musical theatre and want to be transported to 1930s New York, then Jane Keller’s solo acoustic show, Sundays at Ira’s, will appeal.  

Keller is a boomer who shares the story about her great-aunt, Alice, and her adventures at musical soirees in the apartment above her, where some of Broadway’s most talented musicians and composers regularly gathered.

The apartment was lived in by George Gershwin – one of the most popular American composers of the 1920s and 1930s, who wrote for musical theatre and jazz and classical renditions. Keller, 70, sings songs from the era – compositions by Gershwin, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Noel Coward and Harold Arlen. [More


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