Have you heard the news? VH-1 is producing its own version of the classic TV show, "Jeopardy!" -- called "Rock & Roll Jeopardy!".
Well, then can't we have "Broadway Jeopardy!"?
Let's welcome our three contestants, Frank, Charley and Mary. "Our categories are," says host John Davidson, "Tony winners, Dropped Songs, Flops, Hits, My Fair Lady, and Broadway Potpourri."
Mary, who won the toss backstage, goes first. "Hits for $100."
"24601" is revealed. Frank buzzes in with "Who Am I?" And because he saw My Fair Lady (and sort of enjoyed it), he opts for that category and correctly gets the questions, "Why Can't the English Teach Their Children How to Speak?" "Wouldn't It Be Loverly?" "Why Can't a Woman Be More Like a Man?" "Where Does It Rain?" and "Where's that Blasted Plain?" -- which gives him a quick $1,600 lead.
"Tony winners for $100!" he requests. "Applause, Applause!" comes on the screen.
Charley knows! He has trouble with the buzzer mechanism -- Frank is much better with machines -- but he finally rings in. "What is it that we're living for?" The dimpled Davidson tells him he's correct. Charley feels he's got a good thing going with the category, and continues it.
The screen shows, "Captain Hook! Captain Hook!"
"Who's the swine-iest swine in the world?" Charley yells in triumph.
But Mary is not to be left behind. She recognizes "Barcelona," "Not me, not me," and "Me!" and answers, "Where ya goin'?" "Who's Been Sitting in My Chair?" and "Who's that girl with the permanent wave and the stockings with the seams?" She's now only a few bucks behind Frank.
Mary tries, "Flops for $200" but when it shows, "Success with movies, Kit Sargent, and Laurette Harrington," Frank's there. If there's anyone who can relate to What Makes Sammy Run? it's he. But when "Flops for $300" shows, "He became a loveless, predictable fool," Frank feels Mary's piercing glance. Charley grabs the chance to buzz in and get, "Whatever became of old Temple?"
"Now you know," Mary tells Frank.
"Broadway Potpourri for $100," Charley demands, and it's the Daily Double, which gets him that inexplicable burst of applause that the studio audience always gives when someone stumbles on one. (Gee, all the contestant's done is make a lucky guess.) Charley bets his entire bankroll, and when it says, "What word in five letters is never spelled right?" he gets "Wrong."
For the rest of the round, it's musical chairs. Mary knows that "Dirt, garbage and you" comes from that Kiss Me, Kate discard, "What Does Your Servant Dream About?" Charley, of course familiar with Goodtime Charley, knows that "Joel Grey's plea for understanding" is "Why Can't We All Be Nice?" Frank, to be sure, knows that "The Merm sang 'Money' 14 times before asking this" is "Can You Use Any Money Today?" By the time the first round ends, Frank's first, Mary second, and Charley third.
Next comes the biographical segment. We learn that Charley is a playwright/lyricist, and Frank a composer with a wife who is gorgeous and a son who's straight. "What do you do?" Davidson asks Mary.
"I drink," she says unapologetically.
Davidson blushes. "No, what do you really do?"
"I really drink," she insists.
Double Jeopardy doesn't come a moment too soon. "The categories are," says Davidson, "Richard Rodgers, Musical Theater History, Shows of the '30s, Pulitzer Prize Winners, London Musicals, and Sondheim."
All three lick their lips at that last category. They're very familiar with Sondheim, so that's the first subject that Charley chooses for $200. "Just what you usually do!" is revealed.
Frank immediately buzzes "'What would we do without you?' Sondheim for $400!"
"'I'm Still Here' replaced this song."
"'Can That Boy Fox-Trot?'! Sondheim for $600!"
"Lord, lord, lord, that woman is me."
"'Who's That Woman?'! Sondheim for $800."
Charley knows that one and buzzes. "Could I leave you?!" he cries.
"No," Davidson says sadly, just as Mary buzzes in. "Will I leave you?" she stresses, and gets $800 for her trouble.
Mary switches to "Rodgers for $200," and is first to buzz when the screen shows "You're spoiled." With a judgmental look to Frank, she snarls, "Shall I Tell You What I Think of You?" She immediately repents, though, on the "Rodgers for $400" clue, which is "He's your fella and you love him, that's all there is to that." "What's the use of wond'rin if he's good or if he's bad?" Mary murmurs.
Though she's correct, being reminded of that philosophy puts her in a real funk. She doesn't ring in on any question for the rest of the game.
Frank and Charley find Musical Theater History is tough. Charley gets "This replaced 'Everything's That's Gonna Be Has Been'" ("Why Me?"), but both are stumped by "Big novelty song from 1914's The Belle of Bond Street" ("Who Paid the Rent for Mrs. Rip Van Winkle When Rip Van Winkle Was Away?"), "Hit from 1919's Monte Cristo, Jr." ("Who Played Poker with Pocahontas When John Smith Went Away?"), "Ziegfeld Follies of 1918 hit" ("Would You Rather Be a Soldier with an Eagle on Your Shoulder, or a Private with a Chicken on Your Knee?") and, of course, "Long-titled song from 1961 off-Broadway musical Hobo" ("Who Put out the Light That Lit the Candle That Started the Flame Deep down in My Heart?").
Despite these setbacks, Charley nabs "On a clear understanding that this kind of thing can happen" as "Shall We Dance?" Frank identifies "It seems that we have lived before and laughed before and loved before" as "But who knows where and when?" Charley knows that "They sit around and wonder what royal folk would do" is "What do the simple folks do?" Frank recognizes "Ya just listen, ya just listen" as "How d'ya talk to a girl?"
Then Frank takes a deep breath. "Sondheim for $1000."
"An Audio Daily Double," exclaims Davidson, and Frank bets everything he has. When he hears a chorus singing, "All around there's the sound of the midsummer's night," he recognizes it as the title song from Bells Are Ringing, but he can't see how that's relevant to Sondheim. Are they going for some Jerome Robbins connection?
But then, as he finds himself swaying in three-quarter time, Frank sees what they're getting at. "Do I Hear a Waltz?"
That Frank! "Correct!" cries Davidson, as the gong sounds the end of the game. "We'll be right back with Final Jeopardy," he says. "The category is City Center Revivals."
Minutes later, the three see, "He played Og in the 1955 production of Finian's Rainbow." Will they get, "Who is Merv Griffin?" (The show's staff apparently wants to acknowledge the sometimes actor-singer who created "Jeopardy!".)
Mary's slate is blank, but Frank and Charley both get it. That means that Mary finishes third, to her chagrin. (She wants it the way that it was.) And because Frank had much more to bet, Charley is left to mutter-mutter-mutter (it's his first time on TV, and his last) as Frank emerges rich and famous, and therefore happy, too.
-- Peter Filichia is the New Jersey drama critic for the Star-Ledger
You can e-mail him at Pfilichia@aol.com