Top-notch cast, glorious songs and plenty of personality combine for first-rate ‘Lloyd Price Musical’

In the 1950s and ’60s, Price had a number of hits, most notably “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” and “Personality.”

SHARE Top-notch cast, glorious songs and plenty of personality combine for first-rate ‘Lloyd Price Musical’
Lloyd Price (Saint Aubyn, left) and his friend/business partner Harold Logan (Stanley Wayne Mathis) have much to talk about in “Personaity: The Lloiyd Price Musical” at the Studebaker Theater. 

Lloyd Price (Saint Aubyn, left) and his friend/business partner Harold Logan (Stanley Wayne Mathis) have much to talk about in “Personaity: The Lloyd Price Musical” at the Studebaker Theater.

Liz Lauren

R&B singer-songwriter Lloyd Price is the major pop music pioneer you may not have heard of. Back in the 1950s and ’60s, he had a number of hits, most notably “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” and “Personality.” He appeared on national television (“The Ed Sullivan Show,” “American Bandstand”). He ran his own record company, Turntable Records, and his own club in Manhattan, The Turntable Club, the first Black-owned music club south of Harlem, with his friend and business partner Harold Logan. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. He passed away in 2021 at the age of 88.

But that’s too quick a summation of Price.

“Personality: The Lloyd Price Musical,” the remarkable new production based on Price’s life and now playing at the Studebaker Theater, shines a bright spotlight on the multifaceted entertainer. He lived a fascinating life and he had a gift for writing amazing, memorable tunes.

‘Personality: The Lloyd Price Musical’

Mr. Personality

When: Through Sept. 3

Where: Studebaker Theater, Fine Arts Building, 410 S. Michigan

Tickets: $45+

Run-time: 2 hours, with one 15-minute intermission

Info: fineartsbuilding.com


The musical (which had its world premiere last year at People’s Light in Malvern, Pennsylvania) features a book by B. Jeffrey Madoff, based on extensive conversations with Price, with music and lyrics by Price. It recounts Price’s life and career beginning with his childhood in the 1930s and ’40s in rural Louisiana, continuing with his rise in show business from young phenom (he was only 19 when he had his first hit record) and ending in the late 1960s, when Price, no longer the hot headliner but an established and respected entertainer, was still earning a good income from his craft.

One of 11 children, Price was certainly up against it. His family was poor. His father dug ditches for a septic tank company; his mother made money selling fish sandwiches. No one around Price had any reason to believe he could escape a world determined to keep him down, but he did.

Darian Peer (left as young Lloyd Price) and Saint Aubyn (as Lloyd Price/narrator) and the ensemble of “Personality: The Lloyd Price Musical” at the Studebaker Theater.

Darian Peer (left as young Lloyd Price) and Saint Aubyn (as Lloyd Price/narrator) and the ensemble of “Personality: The Lloyd Price Musical” at the Studebaker Theater.

Liz Lauren

His first recording, “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” (at the age of 19), had major crossover appeal among Black and white teenagers, and skyrocketed his career. He became firmly established in the pantheon of early rock and roll alongside such greats as Chuck Berry and Little Richard, only to see his music career interrupted when he was drafted and sent to Korea.

The first act of this show follows a young Price (Darian Peer) as he rises to the top of the charts. The second focuses on how the established Price (Saint Aubyn), with the help of his good friend and longtime business partner Harold Logan (Stanley Wayne Mathis), took control of his career, creating his own successful recording and publishing companies. Price scored two of his biggest hits during this period: “Personality” and “Stagger Lee.”

Darian Peer (Young Lloyd Price). Photo by Liz Lauren.jpg

Darian Peer stars as young Lloyd Price in “Personality: The Lloyd Price Musical.”

Liz Lauren

Maddoff and Price’s finely written script is perfectly complemented by Price’s powerhouse music and Sheldon Epps’ cleverly staged, well-paced production.

As Price, Saint Aubyn is an actor of considerable charm and energy, winning over the audience from the start. Aubyn is also able to gracefully step from his role as the show’s narrator to an actor in the story, and back again. And when Aubyn sings, he is a force of nature, nowhere better than near the show;s end, belting out an incomparable version of “Personality.”

Backed by a seven-piece band, conducted by Shelton Becton, the songs in the show (all of the era, though not all of them written by Price) are performed with virtuosic bravado. As a young Price, Darian Peer is unstoppable in his delivery of “Lawdy Miss Clawdy.” Alexandria Reese, playing Erma Franklin (Aretha’s sister and a performer at Price’s nightclub), brings down the house belting out “Piece of my Heart.”

The show is also visually dazzling, thanks in no small part to David Gallo and Viveca Gariner’s clever, multi-level set, Raquel Adorno’s costumes and Edgar Godineaux’s dazzling choreography. The production numbers, recreating Price’s television appearances, are a real feast for the eyes. Clad in Adorno’s sparkly ’60s-era go-go outfits, the show’s hugely talented dancers are all about the wow factor.

It is hard not to admire a show that succeeds in entertaining us even as it tackles so many serious issues including racism, the American dream, and the curveballs life throws at you. But to be honest, on the way out of the theater, all I could think about were Price’s glorious tunes running through my head.

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