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Arts & EventsOttawa, Come on Down!

Ottawa, Come on Down!

Ottawa, Come on Down!

the-price-is-right-2-of-23the-price-is-right-17-of-23the-price-is-right-16-of-23All photos by Andre Gagne.

When I was a kid there were two things prevalent in my mother’s morning routine: making breakfast for her children and Bob Barker. Some of my earliest memories are of “fabulous prizes”and not games named tag or hide-and-seek but Cliff Hangers, Squeeze Play and Plinko. Even though we weren’t there, there was still this feeling that “all this could be yours if The Price is Right”.

Sitting next to mom on days when I was sick from school you could feel her excitement watching the show. Sometimes she’d even shout at the screen. We never won “a new car” or a trip to an exotic world destination but, looking back, I think I won a lot more. Now that mom’s gone what remains are the memories of those mornings, how her eyes grew wide, her tea cup frozen halfway to her mouth, in anticipation of a possible big prize win for somebody she’d never meet. Mom never got to “come on down” but I know she looked forward to that moment of her day when she could switch on the television and retreat, if only for a little while, into the game show dreams on The Price is Right.

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Looking around a nearly sold-out TD Place last night it was clear mom shared some eclectic, but joyful, company. The Price is Right Live had come to Lansdowne and along with The Big Wheel, Showcase Showdown, games and prizes were hundreds dressed in matching t-shirts, flamboyant outfits and eager smiles.

the-price-is-right-8-of-23The energy my mother radiated from her spot on the sofa was multiplied by a couple thousand. Showing early on that the game show brings out a pretty animated crowd, the masses broke out into choruses of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” when it began to play over the house speakers, their arms waving, dancing in the aisle, like he was actually there.

This crowd was ready!

the-price-is-right-7-of-23“Everybody has hope and everybody wants the opportunity that on the off chance they may be the special one that the light shines on,” says an elated Jill Keyes, dressed in a tutu with blinking lights. “People can go through generations and generations waiting for that one shining moment, whether you’re 25 or your 75, you want that opportunity to see your name up on that screen and hear the world famous ‘come on down’.”

It looked as though all of those generations were present in TD Place last night including a few who saw The Price is Right first come to television back in 1956. Most, however, were from the Bob Barker era, something live show host Todd Newton acknowledged when he took the stage.

the-price-is-right-12-of-23“None of us would be here if not for Bob,” Newton, host of shows such as Family Game Night and Hollywood Showdown, said evoking a strong ovation from the crowd who clearly remembered Barker’s charm during his 35 year run as host of what would become one of the world’s most popular game shows.

Barker finally handed off his microphone to comedian and new show host Drew Carey in 2007.

That same year, The Price is Right was named the greatest game show of all time by TV Guide, one that would be remembered for ushering in a new era of game shows. The show celebrated its 40th Anniversary in 2012 and still remains popular in daytime television. The live touring production brings all the excitement of the studio tapings on the road giving randomly selected audience members a chance to win big or, in the very least, act silly trying.

“Generations of fans have enjoyed the rush of emotions experienced while watching the show on television, now imagine the fun you have being in the audience or better yet getting up on stage,” said Mike Cerha, VP Entertainment and Venues at TD Place. “Seeing friends, family and co-workers dress up and cheer each other on makes this live show all the more entertaining.”

the-price-is-right-13-of-23the-price-is-right-14-of-23The tone of the night was set when the very first contestant lost a shoe and took a tumble while rushing up on stage. This elicited some gentle ribbing from Newton before introducing the first game of the night, Punch a Bunch. Debuting on the show in 1978, the game where contestants punch out portions of a board to reveal dollar amount prizes behind was the first where the main prize only consisted of cash. Alas, the shoeless start of Ottawa’s live show only made a local $300 richer instead of $5000.

the-price-is-right-15-of-23Kristen, the evening’s second contestant, would have less luck even though she got to play one of the most popular games in the show’s history. Cliff Hangers, where a miniature mountain climber moves up a slope for every dollar amount away from the “actual retail price” a contestant guesses, has had audience members singing along to the game’s yodel since 1976. On this night, the climber would sadly plummet off the side along with Kristen’s chances of winning a home theatre system.

Even with the first few loses, the crowd remained lively. One person even stormed towards the stage in a passionate fury of vigour after only winning a Tim Horton’s gift card.

“Somebody’s been drinking already,” joked Newton.

Game three upped the stakes. Not only could Carol, the chosen contestant who’d been watching the game for 40 years, win but also an audience member. The game: Any Number, the first Bob Barker would host on his show debut. The prize: either less than five bucks in cash, a set of golf clubs or a trip for two to Las Vegas.

Cindy Halifax, who was in Ottawa by way of Toronto, was the lucky random in the crowd invited on stage to take home whatever it was Carol won. Halifax was overjoyed to be called up from her seat causing host Newton to remark that she was grabbing her coat as though the plane to Vegas were leaving that night. The two, however, would walk away with the clubs.

“It’s like a life dream of mine,” Halifax would later tell Ottawa Life of her experience. “This was unbelievable.  My heart’s still pumping!”

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Other games played during the night were Check-Out and Plinko with the biggest prize win of the evening going to Jen. Her friends loudly cheered her on to a new washer and dryer set. History was nearly made in Ottawa when, during the spin of the Big Wheel, two contestants in a row spun the maximum amount. There wouldn’t be a third but the ensuing spin off only fired the crowd up more.

“It’s good to be in TD Place tonight,” shouted Newton.

the-price-is-right-22-of-23The finale of the evening saw both contestants bidding on a trip to Hawaii and, of course, “a new car!” in the Showcase Showdown. Unfortunately, they both over bid keeping the prizes out of reach.

The evening, however, win or lose, didn’t leave those exiting without something to take away. Those who got to “come on down” and even those who didn’t learned something mom and I did many years ago: there is no dollar amount or car or vacation you can attach to happiness be it experienced in the crowd, on the stage or comfortably sniffling on a sick day next to your mom on the couch.

Happy memories are priceless.

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