Devin Price was born well after the time period covered in “Motown The Musical.”
But the ensemble cast member from Lansing, an Oakland University theater graduate, feels well qualified to be part of the show.
“I grew up with that music,” Prince, 25, says by phone from Virginia. “I remember going on vacation with my grandparents, listening to (Motown) on satellite radio and I found myself singing along to all the songs. And when my grandparents wanted to go to a Commodores concert, I ended up going, too.
“So when I heard about auditions and went through the process, I knew the music inside and out.”
Based on Gordy’s 1994 memoir “To Be Loved: The Music, The Magic, The Memories of Motown,” “Motown The Musical” was, like so many of the famed Detroit record label’s hits, a smash from the time it opened on Broadway during spring 2013. Starting with the label’s launch in 1958 to the “Motown 25: Yesterday, Today and Forever” special in 1983 and packed full of iconic hits, it was nominated for four Tony Awards and ran on Broadway through January of 2015, with a return engagement last July.
As part of the ensemble, Price gets to portray a number of Motown legends, including the Temptations’ Eddie Kendricks, members of the Commodores and the Contours and Junior Walker — though, Price acknowledges, he does not play saxophone himself.
“I tried it once, in fifth grade,” he recalls. “I wasn’t very good at it, so I quit and went to choir and concentrated on singing.”
During his time at Oakland, Price appeared in “Spring Awakening,” “Sweet Charity,” “The Life” and “Carrie: The Musical.”
“When I first auditioned for the program I did my piece and they sat me down and talked and asked what I was into, what were my other hobbies — they made me feel like they wanted me there,” Price says. “It really was a great program.”
Price moved to New York shortly after graduating in 2015 and took some regional theater roles before getting the “Motown” part. “It happened fast but it didn’t seem fast,” he says with a laugh. Being part of the show, meanwhile, has given him more insight into both the music and the business of Motown — as well as a chance to meet Gordy and Motown artists such as Smokey Robinson and Mary Wilson.
“Berry is still very hands on with this,” Price notes. “He still sends notes. Sometimes people get emails from him. We had brunch with him. We definitely know Berry Gordy.” Price has never received an email himself, but he remembers that, “When (Gordy) signed my book on our last day in Los Angeles he told me Junior Walker was one of his favorites. That was pretty cool.”
Price is contracted with “Motown” through late August, after which he plans to take some dance and voice classes and get ready to “audition for the next thing.” But he cherishes the opportunity to be part of “Motown,” and Motown’s continuing history.
“Being able to perform this music every night, I’m never tired of it,” Price says. “I never go to work thinking, ‘I don’t want to do these songs.’ these songs are so great. And it’s so great to be doing the show right now, bringing some joy across American — no matter how we feel, to spread the joy that’s in this music.”
If You Go:
Motown The Musical runs Tuesday, April 18-30, at The Fisher Theatre, 3011 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit. Tickets are $30-$132. Call 313-872-1000 or visit broadwayindetroit.com.
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