There are three simple words that, since the early 1970s, have changed lives forever, and they're about to be shouted at the F.M. Kirby Center for the local masses to hear.
“Come on down!”
For decades, “The Price is Right” has been a game show constant, creeping into families' living rooms to entertain at all hours of the day. While it's been a blast to watch on the tube, the creators of the show have taken things to the next level, further inviting audiences to be a part of the what the show is all about. For the past 10 years, the show has hit the road, and it'll finally settle into Northeast Pennsylvania.
“The Price is Right Live!” comes to the Kirby on Thursday, May 30, and host Todd Newton couldn't be more excited.
“We love coming to new places as much as people love having us,” the Emmy-award-winning television host said. “I think the cohesive love there, the reciprocal energy, is all based upon the fact that the show has been a part of our lives for 40 years and, regardless of how old we are, we all have special memories of it, whether it's watching with our grandparents when we were little or watching whenever we stayed home sick from school, 'The Price is Right' has kind of always been there; it's just fun to share.”
The show will share a 75 minute performance that promises all the cash, prizes, and games seen on the televised version.
“We're created and produced by the same people that do the TV show, so authenticity is priority one here,” Newton noted. “Everyone that works on the show, especially me, are game show fans first, game show employees second. We wouldn't do it just halfway.
“We have the big showcase at the end of the show, which obviously has a nice shiny prize. We have bundles of cash, kitchen appliances, trips – whatever you want. Whatever you expect is what we're going to deliver.”
And what of the popular pricing games, of which Newton said there are 85 that belong to the show?
“We're kind of like going to see your favorite band knowing that they're going to play all of your favorite hits,” Newton said. “It's a greatest hits game show. I'm not sure what ones we'll have when we come see you guys exactly, but I can tell you that if people love Plinko, they're not going to be disappointed; if they love the Big Wheel, they're not going to be disappointed.”
While tickets to the show are required to be able to sit in the theater and watch, no tickets are required to become a contestant. Anyone over the age of 18 can apply and can do so either online, by following the link on the event page at kirbycenter.org, or in person in the lobby of the Kirby three hours prior to showtime.
And that, Newton said, is when the party gets started.
“Sometimes I'll go out in front of the theater and hang out with people, chat with people, and it's fun. Everybody's made t-shirts, is sharing their 'Price Is Right' stories, their favorite pricing games. The Internet has obviously changed the entire world, but there are some things that should still be done in person, and I think registering for our show is one of those things. Come on out and meet people. Let's have a game show party.”
His livelihood has been a party since the start, as Newton's passion for what he does seeps through every syllable he speaks. Not only does he love his career, he's also a natural at it.
The blue-eyed, big-smiled entertainment personality has a knack for connecting with people, whether it's through a game show setting, such as his time with “Family Game Night” or “Whammy!” or via the red carpet, as he has done for E! Entertainment Television.
“I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be on television,” Newton explained. “I was kind of confused for a long time because I knew I never wanted to be an actor, but I still wanted to be on TV, and I always looked up to guys like Johnny Carson and Bob Barker and Dick Clark. When I discovered game shows and hosting, I knew that that was my calling.”
And so Newton went for it and has been in the business since 1999, meeting people of all walks of life.
“The more people we come into contact with in this world, the better,” he said. “We learn from everyone we meet, and the fact that I get to be in a different city every night working with such large audiences is just a real gift for me.”
Barker has been Newton's mentor for quite some time and taught him something very important: no two audiences, no two contestants will ever be the same. So, with all the varying personalities, how does Newton possibly ensure a connection to whomever he's dealing with?
“Whether it's hosting game shows or doing the red carpet interviews I've done for so many years, the key thing is simple: all you've got to do is pay attention,” he said.
Newton employs this tactic with onstage contestants.
“People have their backgrounds, people have stories, and especially when it comes to 'The Price is Right.' When they come up on stage, I want to know what brought them there, who decided to get the tickets, what are they celebrating, who they're there with that night, how far they drove to get there, what they're going to do afterwards, what if they win, what if they don't win – all of these questions are part of this person's story.
“All of a sudden, Linda from Pittsburgh becomes Linda who's getting ready to retire from 35 years at the post office, who carries special snacks in her bag so the dogs don't bite her. All of these things you can learn; you can really get color and paint this beautiful picture for the audience, especially when you're doing the live show.”
Consistency, Newton said, is the name of the game that has kept “The Price is Right” so close to viewers' hearts for so long.
“It's always been there throughout the years and hasn't changed all that much,” the host said of the show's general format. “That's intentional, and that's a good thing.”
“It's been consistent in people's lives. I used to watch it with my grandmother, I watched it when I was in college, I watch it with my kids now.
“It's kind of like when I look back over the story of my life, two things have always been there: 'The Price is Right' and 'Rocky' movies,” Newton recalled with a laugh. “It's a real treasure for me to be able to be a part of this franchise.”
And there is, of course, the man who hosted for so many years.
“Bob Barker is unquestionably one of the most beloved men on television and I'm proud to call him my mentor,” Newton said. “Everyone felt comfortable with Bob, and they still do.”
But the biggest thing, which goes back to the advice Barker gave Newton in pointing out that no two audiences or contestants will be the same, is the fact that through all the expected, there's much more unexpected.
“It's really five or six different games in one,” Newton said. “They rotate and they change, and that makes it exciting. When it goes to commercial break, you never know what game will be there when you come back, and that's fun.
“With 'The Price is Right,' you're never 100 percent certain what's waiting around the corner, and we love that.”
There are 85 pricing games that come along with “The Price is Right,” all giving contestants a chance to win some cash or prizes. Throughout the years, many have stood out, some of which we've listed right here to refresh your memory going into the live stage show, just in case you may find yourself on the receiving end of one.
Punch a Bunch: Contestants answer “higher or lower” pricing questions about four items, with each correct answer earning them a punch on a five-by-10 punch board. The holes are punched, each containing a slip of paper with a certain amount of money on it. As each is revealed, contestants can choose to quit and keep the amount won or to press on and try to win a better prize with the next slip.
Cliffhanger: This is one of the more visually fun ones, as it's marked by a large game board with an animatronic yodeling mountain climber scaling a 25-step mountain with a cliff at the top. Contestants are shown three small prizes and are asked to guess the retail value of each one at a time. The climber then moves one step up the mountain for each dollar the contestant is off the actual prize. If the climber hasn't completely fallen off the cliff in the time it takes the contestant to correctly price all three prizes, the winnings are all theirs.
Plinko: This is the game that most comes to mind when the game show is mentioned. Contestants are given a free chip and can win up to four more by pricing items correctly. Contestants stand atop a large peg board and drop chips down into it, hoping it lands in the higher end of one of the spaces at the bottom labeled $0 to $10,000.
Hole in One: If you're good at golf, this game is all you. Contestants are asked to place six grocery items in ascending order of price. The prices are revealed, and the contestant makes a hole-in-one putt from a line closer to the hole for each successive price that's higher than the previous price. The prize? Oh, you know, just a car.