New musical about Ukraine to take the stage in time to help Ukrainians

Apr 20, 2022, 6:58 PM | Updated: Apr 21, 2022, 8:25 am

A new musical, highlighting a horrifying moment in Ukraine’s history will take the stage at the Eccles Theater in Salt Lake City Saturday, to help Ukrainians during this dark moment in the country’s history.

Ben Lowell learned about the Holodomor in Soviet Ukraine four years ago and was shocked he had never heard the story before. The manmade famine that started in 1932 killed millions of people.

Lowell says he “felt impressed to write a musical.” A difficult task for someone who had never done anything like that but had experience in composing music.

When Lowell approached his friend Carissa Klitgaard she says she was “equally daunted” but, “for some reason it just really gripped me. I felt drawn to it.”

Klitgaard spent the next year researching and reading journals about Ukraine’s history from the Holodomor to the hardships of World War II and the yearslong struggle for independence, which didn’t come until 1991.

“It follows these people as they struggle with literally starving to death,” she said. “If they stole even a little bit of grain from the field they would be shot or sent to a camp or imprisoned.”

“It’s hard to believe that anything came out the other side of just event after event and oppression after oppression,” she said, tearing up as she recounted what she had learned about the Ukrainian people.

“The resilience and perseverance of these people, it makes me really emotional because it’s pretty astounding.”

It was the kind of story that’s compelling no matter when you hear it or share it.

Lowell says from the beginning he and Klitgaard felt like instruments in the project,guided in a deeper sense. We just feel like we’ve been part of it. Passengers on the train almost.”

Years of research, writing and composing culminated in a reading of the show in the fall of 2021. Little did they know then, that only months later another manmade conflict would break out in Ukraine when Russia invaded in 2022.

“For this to have happened now, it’s awful. We feel for their fight for freedom,” Lowell said.

Suddenly the show called ‘Kalyna the Musical’ was more than just a compelling story, it was a very relevant work. And it would soon turn into an opportunity to connect people to Ukraine’s history and culture and give them a way to help those impacted by the war.

Lowell and Klitgaard knew they wanted to use the show to help. So they went to Amar International and U.S. Friends of Amar based in Salt Lake City to ask for help.

“Ukraine, as you know, is in the most terrible situation,” said Baroness Emma Nicholson, found of Amar.

“With hostility, ferocity in Europe we’ve never seen since the second world war. The degree of cruelty. The degree of horror. The degree of fear. And millions and millions of people fleeing.”

Baroness Nicholson’s foundation has been helping refugees in Europe for more than 30 years. They agreed to sponsor the show at the Eccles Theater in Salt Lake City with all proceeds going to the cause.

“We’re there. We’re on the ground and we’re begging for people’s help and support,” Nicholson said.

“A lot of people are really interested in helping Ukraine. They just don’t know how and we want to give them that opportunity,” said Stand Parrish, president of U.S. Friends of Amar.

Professional performers and singers like Megan and Preston Yates — who play the mother and father of a girl named Kalyna — have donated their time and talents to the show.

“We’re just lucky that we’re able to be in the right place at the right time,” Preston said.

“So much of what’s going on right now is just – it’s just terrible. It feels helpless,” Megan said.

She said participating in Kalyna the Musical has been, “a beautiful experience for us to be able to give part of something that we have.”

Dozens of other performers are also participating, including the Weber State choir, the BYU Folk Dance Team, among other musicians, dancers and actors. All of them bringing to life a compelling story at what appears to be the right time in history.

“Hopefully they’re moved and they feel that they can give something,” said Klitgaard.

Lowell said, “we want people to feel that and see that and know that this country deserves a chance at their freedom.”

Kalyna the Musical will be at the Eccles theater Saturday at 7 p.m. An art auction to raise money to help Ukrainians starts at 5:30 p.m. You can find tickets and more information here at the following links:




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New musical about Ukraine to take the stage in time to help Ukrainians