Review and Report: “The Price Is Right Live” Spins Its Way to My Area, Brings a Great Experience
You’re probably not going to win a brand new car. You’re probably not going to win a $20,000 cash prize. And, in all likelihood, you’re not going to be called by announcer Andy Martello to “come on down!” If you come in accepting all of these things, The Price Is Right Live, a touring stage show based on the long-running CBS game show hosted by Todd Newton, is a heck of a lot of fun. I attended the 9:30 PM Friday night show at the Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. They did four shows over two days, selling out a 3,000-seat theatre each time, showing how popular the prospect of seeing Price is in the mid-Michigan area. My party and I were provided tickets for the program and we all had a lot of fun with a reasonable facsimile of the Price Is Right experience.
I have seen the original Vegas version of this show, around since 2003, twice and was curious to see how a traveling rendition would compare. Depending on the size of the theatre, the setup and arrangement of the shows varies. Many shows occur in larger theaters with a big stage, able to accommodate the full replica of the show’s turntable and two big doors. At our show, we just had the doors with the Big Wheel stationary between them. Games were wheeled out on the left door, with the right door opening up with an impressive screen inside to show prizes. To keep people entertained while everyone files in, classic games and facts are rotated through the screen, so you can play Danger Price from 1992 and test your skills. Andy Martello may not be a name familiar to many, but he is the show’s announcer, originating as one of the rotating names from the show in Vegas. He does a fine job of warming up the audience with humorous banter (“The Price Is Right is as old as two Justin Biebers and half a Honey Boo Boo!”), calling people down and reading the prize copy.
After the introductions, we get the star of our show: Todd Newton, famous for hosting game shows like Whammy! and winning a Daytime Emmy last year for Family Game Night. Even thought this was the second show of the night, Todd was energized and seemed to be having a really good time. Since it’s a casino, an open bar flows in the theatre so many of the contestants were, shall we say, slightly inebriated when they made it up on stage, making even more fun for Todd to riff on. I would be comfortable saying that if he filled the vacancy Bob Barker left in 2007 on the CBS program, he would have filled the shoes very nicely.
The format of this particular show featured four pricing games (with a one-bid) before it, two Big Wheel rounds, a special flashback game segment and finally, the Showcase. New contestants are called down for each round, so it’s only one chance for greatness. The value of the items up for bid ranged from $200 to $500, accompanied with a special twist that the person who bid closest during the program won a bonus iPad. Naturally, that prize went to the gentleman that perfectly priced the value of a slot machine. The four games played during our show were Punch-a-Bunch for up to $2,500, Any Number for a cookware set or a trip to Vegas, Cliff Hangers for a $1,300 refrigerator/freezer and, of course, Plinko for up to $2,500.
The setups for some of these games are fairly difficult, but certainly not impossible. While games like Cliff Hangers don’t follow tradition that are common on the show (for example, guesses of $20, $30 and $40 on the CBS show almost guarantee a win), if one pays attention, they will do alright. The small prizes here were valued at $25, $44 and $70. Unfortunately for our show’s contestant, his bids were $20, $33… and $15. Wasn’t going to happen for him either way. Some things just aren’t going to be able to be helped. The contestant on our Punch-a-Bunch game earned two punches, where she traded $200 for the smallest prize of $50. We did have a big winner, a contestant narrowly avoiding the piggy bank and taking Any Number for the nearly-$1,300 trip to Las Vegas. On the opposite coin, the poor contestant playing Plinko earned no bonus chips and promptly dropped her free one into $0.
The show had two Big Wheel games, with the top spinner receiving $250. Our second game featured a $1.00 win, which nets a $100 bonus, but no dice on the bonus spin. After the second Big Wheel, something happened that I had yet to hear of. Two names were pulled and Todd went out into the audience to play a retro Range Game with them on the big screens. Picking the correct range netted a Best Buy gift card. Some stops on the tour are also featuring Hole in One, but I wonder if the stage size for our show just didn’t permit that game to be played. After this came the most interesting departure from the real show and even the previous stage shows: the Showcase.
This Showcase is a showcase in name only – the sole contestant is actually playing a four-prize version of the pricing game Ten Chances. Four prizes are offered – one two-digit, two three-digits and, of course, a brand new car. Just like on the show, contestants have to use a bank of numbers to price a prize correctly before going onto the next one. I prefer this setup much more than the previous style, where contestants bid on a ton of prizes but were likely to only win one if they won the Showcase. Our intrepid and slightly inebriated contestant had trouble pricing the mini Leapfrog device and the PlayStation bundle, but nailed the HDTV package on only one chance. With two chances, the Ford Fiesta was within his reach and he made fine bids, but unfortunately, he could not capture it. Still, it made for some excitement in the audience when we realized this guy had a real chance at winning a car.
At the end of the night, my companions (who are just casual game show fans) and I felt like we got our times’ worth. The show lasts 90 minutes and it never feels like it’s dragging. There are a few classic clip montages (which become much funnier when you’re with 3,000 people who are seeing them for the first time) and after each game, 5 t-shirts are given out to potential contestants. Todd and Andy do a great job in their roles, making this feel as much like the real experience as possible. Again, the chances are very slim of winning anything. They’re not that great on the real show either. Some venues even allow you the chance to spin the Big Wheel and get a t-shirt for twenty bucks, an opportunity I would absolutely recommend audience members jump on. But if you can get tickets at a reasonable price (general admission went for $20 at these shows, in my opinion a fine bargain) and can find time in the evening to attend one of the shows on the tour, I highly recommend it. It might not be the Los Angeles experience but for a town in Michigan, it was absolutely the next best thing.