Thursday, Nov. 13, 2008 | 1:30 a.m.
- Venue: Bally’s Jubilee Theater
- Length: 90 minutes
- Age restriction: Must be 21-plus to play, 20 and younger may watch.
- Ticket price: $49.50
- Show times: 2:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday
- Web site: More information
Over the years “The Price is Right” has become a cultural phenomenon, unifying senior citizens, housewives, military personnel, so-called “Joe six packs,” college students and everyone in between in a frenzied cloud of anticipation and excitement.
“The Price is Right Live” aims to bring that same experience to Las Vegas and has been inviting people to “c’mon down” to Bally’s Las Vegas for the past three years.
The Vegas version of the CBS classic is a scaled-down incarnation of the televised original and features five of the program’s most popular pricing games – “Race Game,” “It’s In The Bag,” “Cliff Hanger,” “Hole In One,” and the universal favorite, “Plinko” – within a 90-minute show.
While the Vegas audience isn’t as varied as the TV version’s – most Sin City show-goers are white and middle-aged – its cross-generational appeal remains.
“My daughter, she’s 31 and this is her favorite show,” audience member Kathy Rieman said. “(And) my mom, she just turned 84, she’s a big ‘Price is Right’ fan.”
Rieman has been watching “The Price is Right” since she was a stay-at-home mom in the 1970s. Her three children have since grown up and are faithful fans of the program.
The 55-year-old said her daughter now watches the program with her own child, Rieman’s 6-month-old grandson.
Rieman and her husband, Tom, have been married for as many years as “The Price is Right” has been on the air on CBS: 37 years. They made a point of coming to see the live version during their most recent trip to Vegas.
Seated at a booth in the Jubilee Theater at Bally’s, the suburban Chicago couple played along with the stage show, guessing the prices of everything from popcorn makers and pearl necklaces to alka seltzer and air hockey tables.
Four middle-aged women dressed in matching blaze orange T-shirts with “Las Vegas County Jail” scrawled across their backs sat at the next booth. The quartet enthusiastically followed the action onstage as closely as the Riemans, as did most others in the crowd.
There are a few differences between live and televised versions of “The Price is Right” but most deviations keep the show moving and help to include as many different competitors as possible.
“The games we play are almost identical (to the TV version),” one of the show’s hosts, JD Roberto, said.
He and a handful of other hosts share the “Price is Right Live” microphone, rotating in for stints ranging from two or three days to three weeks at a time.
“It’s a pretty good job to work three hours a day and give away other people’s money,” he said.
While the pricing games that the contestants play onstage are essentially the same as the ones played on TV, the showcase showdown is notably different.
Instead of bidding on two separate showcases, the lucky pair who participates in the modified final matchup bid on the same showcase –- and it’s harder for them to win the whole thing, too.
A winning contestant has to be within $100 of the actual retail price of the prize package –- without going over, of course –- in order to win it all. If the closest bid is off by $101 or more, the successful bidder wins just one of the prizes.
Despite the new rules, Roberto said the constant cycle of contestants, coupled with between-round giveaways, makes “The Price is Right Live” “the winningest show on The Strip.”
Between 300 and 700 people file into the theater on a five-times-weekly basis to get a taste of the popular show and at least 50 of them leave the theater with some sort of prize. This translates into odds of between one-in-six and one-in-14, depending on the size of the audience.
On the Tuesday afternoon that the Riemans watched the show, the first contestant, Dave, played “Race Game” and won a home exercise machine, a set of pots, a decorative globe and a hammock chair.
They later laughed when a contestant named Mary told Roberto that she was in Vegas on a business trip.
“I can see you’re working hard,” the host remarked.
Tammy from Minnesota -– who said she had never golfed a day in her life –- later tried to talk her way off the green when she was told she was going to play “Hole in One” for a new game room.
“Can we switch games?” she pleaded.
Roberto laughed her request off.
“There’s about 3 feet between you and a new game room,” he said.
Tammy then putted her way to a new air hockey table and Rock Band video gaming system for Xbox 360.
Another contestant, Francine Riker, was left feeling puzzled in contestants row after overbidding on a tabletop wine cellar.
“I bought one of those things for my daughter-in-law,” the Mastic Beach, Long Island resident said after the show.
“I paid $229 (and) bid $200,” she said – but the actual retail price of the mini wine fridge used during the show was $130.
“They’re more expensive in New York,” she shrugged afterward.
Riker was covered in lucky ladybugs from head to toe. She was wearing ladybug socks, a ladybug shirt, ladybug earrings, and had ladybug pins and ladybug stickers everywhere she could put them.
“I didn’t overdo it today,” she joked.
Along with the other losing contestants, she was given the customary “Price is Right Live” T-shirt after placing her losing bid on the wine cellar. Once returned to her seat she watched as the winning bidder, Susan from Saskatchewan, won $300 playing Plinko.
“I just love Plinko,” Riker said, shaking her head.
Plinko is one of the most popular “The Price is Right” games of all time.
“Plinko is probably number one,” Roberto said. “It’s probably the favorite game on the TV show as well.”
The Vegas version of the show shares several similarities with its televised original: Everyone is given a big yellow nametag to wear with their name written on it in black marker; the music is the same; the games are the same; the set is strikingly similar; and the host even uses the same sort of 70s-era pencil-thin microphone that Bob Barker used to use.
Still, there are several differences.
Just four fresh faces are invited to “c’mon down” to contestants row and the line-up changes with each of the show’s five rounds. The three who get to spin the legendary wheel bypass contestants row altogether and are instead called directly to the stage, as are the two competitors who face off in the showcase showdown.
Like its televised counterpart, “The Price is Right Live” attracts an international audience.
“The fan base is more than just Americans,” Roberto said, noting the show has previously needed translators to accommodate foreign contestants.
The host has used his Italian to translate but said others have been brought in to interpret several other languages, from French to Filipino.
Roberto smiled as he recalled the day a severely disabled contestant surprised everyone after rolling down to contestants row in his wheelchair.
“His brother came up, communicated with sign language and he won,” he said.