NEW YORK, Apr 20 (Reuters) ''The Talk of the Town,'' a musical about a 1920s literary circle written by a pair of advertising jingle writers, is like David amid the Goliaths of Broadway, but it's seducing viewers with its wit and glamour from a bygone era.
One of its creators, Tom Dawes, was once in a folk-rock band called The Cyrkle which toured with the Beatles and he's famous in certain circles as the man behind a hangover remedy advertising jingle that goes ''Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz.'' Dawes and his wife Ginny Redington were successful partners in jingle-writing for 12 years, pumping out such smash-hit ditties as ''Coke Is It.'' Now they've written a musical about the poet Dorothy Parker and the other New York literary wits who became famous in the 1920s as the ''vicious circle.'' ''The Talk of the Town'' is a theatrical minnow compared to Broadway mega-musicals such as ''The Lion King'' and the upcoming ''Tarzan'' which can rake in as much as $1 million a week.
But when you can sip a martini and eat dinner as you watch the show for the same price as a Broadway seat, ''The Talk of the Town'' offers an intimate theatrical experience that takes the viewer back to another time -- if not another place.
First produced at a tiny Greenwich Village theatre in late 2004, the show transferred last year to the Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel, a panelled dining room in the Manhattan hotel where the writers and critics of ''Algonquin Round Table'' met for lunch nearly every day for 10 years in the 1920s.
WITTY OVER LUNCH The script is peppered with witty one-liners taken directly from the likes of Parker, humorist Robert Benchley, novelist Edna Ferber and critic Alexander Woollcott, and most of the scenes take place over lunch at the Algonquin.
''Maybe it has something to do with longing for ... a more articulate society than there is these days,'' Redington said.
''That's part of what people find fascinating, that these people lived by their wits and their words.'' Members of the group were among the first writers for The New Yorker magazine and their often biting put-downs and jokes were frequently recorded in the gossip columns of the day.
''They were the media stars of the '20s even though if you read a lot of their stuff, it's so dated,'' Redington said, confessing to a certain nostalgia for a time when the celebrities of the day were writers and poets.
The Daily News described the show as ''a marvellous original musical,'' saying: ''It captures the spirit of New York at a particularly dazzling moment.'' The show's journey to the Algonquin started more than a decade ago when Dawes and Redington retired from jingles.
''We decided there's so much more to life than singing ketchup bottles,'' said Dawes, who jokes that he had one-and-a-half hits as a rock singer -- ''Red Rubber Ball'' and ''Turn-Down Day'' which made the charts in 1966.
''WORK IS A FOUR-LETTER WORD'' Inspired by a book of quotations by members of the group, Redington came up with a string of songs such as ''Work is a Four-Letter Word'' and ''The Restorative Lunch'' which are performed by a cast who bear an uncanny resemblance to the original characters.
The stage is a raised platform in the middle of the dining room and the actors push past diners to enter and exit, giving the impression that one might just be an eavesdropper at the original scene -- except when they break into song.
''We had so much trouble along the way convincing people it would work,'' Redington said.
They admit to using artistic licence with the historical facts, condensing a rancorous split between play-writing collaborators George Kaufman and Marc Connelly, and playing up an unfulfilled romance between Parker and Benchley.
''Alexander Woollcott did say she (Parker) would be Mrs.
Benchley if there wasn't one already. We played that up for the show,'' Redington said. ''You do things you feel could possibly have been true but having not been there, we don't really know.'' The producers are hoping to move the show to a bigger theatre, or go on tour in the United States or to London.
''The English seem to love words more than the Americans do at this point and it seems a perfect fit,'' Dawes said.
Meanwhile, tourists and New Yorkers can catch the show two nights at the week at the Algonquin where it plays in a space normally used by cabaret acts.
Dawes said he would be happy to see it stay there forever.
''It belongs in the Oak Room,'' he said. ''As some people have said, the Oak Room is the eighth player.'' REUTERS CH HS0852