PRICE, JOHN L., Jr., (29 May 1920 - 20 June 2012) was one of Cleveland's preeminent theatrical showmen in the decades following World War II. A native Clevelander, he was the son of stockbroker John Lemar Price and Emma Moskopp Price, a member of the original Mayor's Committee for CAIN PARK in CLEVELAND HEIGHTS. Price, Jr., was a 1938 graduate of Cleveland Heights High School, where he acted with the Heights Players under DR. DINA REES EVANS. He continued acting under Evans at Cain Park Theater from 1938 to 1947. Price also advanced his drama studies under BARCLAY LEATHEM at WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY, where his classmates included William Boehm (see SINGING ANGELS) and Martin Fuss (later Ross Hunter).

Taking his degree shortly after Pearl Harbor, Price became a lieutenant senior grade in the U.S. Navy and commanded a landing ship that reached Utah Beach in the second wave on D-Day. After the war, he did radio work in New York, made acting appearances at Cain Park and Herman Pirchner's Alpine Village, and married Constance Mather, daughter of a CLEVELAND CLIFFS IRON CO. director. He also made daily television appearances as "Mr. Weather Eye" on station WEWS. Price's ultimate goal was a theater of his own, and he and Boehm studied the rise of summer tent theaters in Pennsylvania and upstate New York.

MUSICARNIVAL in WARRENSVILLE HEIGHTS opened on 25 June 1954 with Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! Robert H. Bishop, III, was the theater’s first president, with Price serving as vice president and producer. In 1963 Price became Musicarnival's president. He kept it going until 1975, mostly producing his own musicals from 1954 to 1965 and importing package (national touring) shows for the last 10 years. Speaking from the stage, he welcomed his audience every night. An avid baseball fan, Price would sometimes announce the score of Cleveland Indians (see CLEVELAND GUARDIANS) games during intermissions. When he produced Damn Yankees, he substituted the Cleveland Indians for the Washington Senators and took the role of Tribe manager for himself. Rusty Charlie, one of the gamblers in Guys and Dolls, was another of his occasional character roles.

An additional passion of Price’s was OPERA, which he indulged with several productions at Musicarnival, some with Beverly Sills as diva. After the closing of Musicarnival, he served from 1977 to 1985 as executive director of the NORTHERN OHIO OPERA ASSN., sponsor of annual Cleveland visits by New York's Metropolitan Opera. Price also was a lifelong lover of Shakespeare's plays. He was a president of the Shakespeare Oxford Society, which maintains that the plays were written by the Earl of Oxford, not the man from Stratford.

Price died at Judson Manor, survived by four children: John, Diana, Philip, and Madeleine.

Updated by Christopher Roy on 5 January 2024. 

John Vacha, The Music Went 'Round and Around. The Kent State University Press, 2004.

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