If you looked at any one aspect of the Retro Dome’s play Thanks for Playing the Game Show, Show, there’s no doubt you’d like what you saw. Great talent, wonderful ly colorful sets and lights, fantastic costumes, humor, heart, audience participation, it’s all there. What’s really odd is, it doesn’t all add up to the bag of chips it ought to be.

With songs entirely too long, a few of them seemingly unrelated to the show and references to many things the audience just didn’t get, what has the makings of a hit is really, well, not. At the end of the day, there wasn’t enough of a cohesive element to enjoy this show entirely. BUT, and that’s a BIG BUT… what’s really exciting about this show is the potential the underlining concept has to evolve into something exceptionally entertaining that doesn’t exist anywhere to my knowledge.

By far, the spontaneity and humor of the small audience participation sections were the real highlight. The improv skills of the actors on stage were remarkable, especially in combination with the varied levels of exuberance provided by our volunteers. There were tears of laughter on and off stage for what amounted to only about 20 minutes of the entire show that was dedicated to this format.  And, it got me to thinking… what if… and I know nobody asked me, but it’s such an exciting and fresh direction, I have to share… what if you took the scripted part out almost entirely, leaving just a skeleton of instructions, introductions, and narration. Now, I know it’s practically sacrilege to say scrap the original play and songs, but hear/read me out.

If it were me, here’s what I’d do:

Keep the name, use the sets, props, costumes, and general feel of the show, all which are really fun.  Create a process (name in hats, sign ups online when you purchase tickets, interact with the audience in the lobby to be interviewed as well.  etc.) for those that want to be considered to be a contestant. Schedule two 90 minute performances one night a week or month, say 7pm and 9:30pm on Saturday. First show is a family show, second show, more adult in content maybe.  Have a pool of 10-15 actors rotate into 5 or 6 roles based on availability. You can even do this even when another show is in rotation in the space, just give them a night off and scale down the set if need be. You could even have the cast of the current show be guest hosts/participants that night (free publicity right?) You’ve got at least 20 different game show games you can easily recreate and mix and match each time. Spin the wheel to see if you are going to play What’s My Line, The Price is Right, Wheel of Fortune, Love Connection etc.  You can utilizes the singers for Name That Tune or live daily doubles in Jeopardy. You can even solicit hilarious and mind stumping questions, topics, answers, and poll results via an online survey or phone ap. Really, you can make it as interactive or as linear as you want, engaging people beyond the shows and creating buzz along the way. Have the prizes be goodies at the concessions stand, movie passes, or little items related to the Dome, nothing that requires someone going out and getting donations or staff time. It’s not about the prize, it’s about the 15 minutes of fame on stage, the experience and the good time. Now, cut the price in half (make it around $15-$20) pack the house and run it indefinitely. No show is ever the same and now, what was a show I’d see once, becomes a show I can catch 4 or 5 times a year easily.

Thanks for Playing the Game Show, Show, has some great talent, visuals and moments, but it dragged and left me wanting a lot more. 3 out of 5 jewels in the review tiara for this version, but I’d be anxious to come back with a group of friends (soon to become retro-groupies) if a Live Improv Game Show Format could grow out of it. The Retro Dome has the creative power and talent to take this idea to the bonus round, and I for one would love to see them go for it. Thanks for Playing the Game Show, Show, plays through June 3rd at the Retro Dome in San Jose.

THEATRE FOOD PAIRING: Indian food is a passion of mine and from tandoori and dal to dosa and curry I’m always looking for a good Indian food experience.  The Mynt Indian Restaurant is conveniently located just a block from the Retro Dome and it was a real culinary treat that proved surprisingly affordable give the white table-cloth, gourmet service experience. I doubt you can go wrong here with ANY of the appetizers and main courses and I was über please with the garbonzo-mynt salad which was light and fresh. The Tandoori Hors d’oeuvres provided a great sample of many of the appetizers without allowing you to totally fill up on them. Chicken Tikka was tender and flavorful and the sag paneer, perhaps an obvious choice, didn’t disappoint. Organic Chicken Curry was very respectable and the garlic naan was excellent. The only thing I wasn’t impressed with was the mango cheesecake which had great potential, but was just too synthetic for my liking. A bottle of my favorite sparkling wine, Chandon, Blanc de Noirs, makes for an excellent accompaniment to all these warm wonderful dishes and I was surprised that for two people, and all that food, it was not nearly as expensive as I would have thought.

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