Small Price to Pay: A Lansing native talks ‘Motown’ and the life of an actor

Devin Price was prepared to live the life of a struggling actor in New York City, but it didn’t take the Lansing native long to land a plum role in Motown: The Musical.

“When I began auditioning for this, I was auditioning for a lot of things,” Price said. “This is a big opportunity, because the show just came off Broadway. I had to have the beat and all of my lines together.”

The show is making a stop on May 2-7 at Broadway Grand Rapids and May 9-14 at Miller Auditorium in Kalamazoo.

Price, who studied musical theater at Oakland University, plays multiple characters in the musical. Motown tells the story of Barry Gordy, who created the eponymous sound and is responsible for launching the musical careers of such greats as Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. His main role is that of Eddy Kendrick, but he also will be on stage portraying Junior Walker and in crowd scenes.

Price said the show is challenging because the cast size has been reduced to accommodate the multiple city tour. On top of that, there are also multiple wardrobe changes that must be done quickly. But his main concern is being true to the lives of the musicians he portrays, many of whom are still alive.

“It’s capturing their essence, but being true to yourself and the art form,” he said.

Price decided to pursue a life in theater while still in high school. During his sophomore year, he played the role of the Scarecrow in The Wiz. He said that’s when he knew acting would be his life. One year later, he saw a tour production of The Color Purple, which turned out to be the first time he saw someone who looked like him onstage.

“I remember thinking, ‘I want to do exactly what they’re doing,’” Price said. “There’s something about when I get onstage and whatever is on my mind, I have to just set that aside and bring joy to people. You and your castmates have to come together.”

Price was the first in his family to pursue a life in the arts. He said his grandmother has always been one of his biggest fans. This gave him the courage to pack some suitcases, purchase a one-way ticket to New York, and move himself into an apartment.

“I took a week to be a tourist and then it was time to start auditioning,” Prices said. “I had an agent after high-school and worked regionally a little bit in places like Maine and Austin, Texas. One-and-a-half years in the city can do a lot to your spirit, but it’s been a great ride so far.

“You have to be proactive in yourself. There’s no guarantee what’s going to happen next.”

His first professional job was in Kittery, Maine in a production of Smokey Joe’s Café.

“This was the first time I had a supporting role and had my own song and leading group numbers,” Price said. “I always knew I was a singer, but this role solidified it. The range was high and I needed to deliver every night.”

After the Motown tour ends in August, Price said he’ll go back to New York and begin the audition process all over again.

“You’re always learning and getting better at what you do and that’s what I love about this career,” Price said. “I don’t always have to perform. Who knows where I’ll end up.”

Motown: The Musical
Broadway Grand Rapids
122 Lyon St. NW, Grand Rapids
May 2-7, $37+, (616) 235-6285


Motown: The Musical
Miller Auditorium
2200 Auditorium Dr., Kalamazoo
May 9-14, $38+, (269) 387-2300