A new musical, highlighting a horrific moment in Ukraine’s history, will take the stage at the Eccles Theater in Salt Lake City on Saturday, to help Ukrainians during this dark time in the country’s history. (Matt Rascon, KSL-TV)
Estimated reading time: 4-5 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY – A new musical, highlighting a horrifying moment in Ukrainian history, will take the stage at the Eccles Theater in Salt Lake City on Saturday, to help Ukrainians during this dark moment in the country’s history .
Ben Lowell heard about the Holodomor in Soviet Ukraine four years ago and was shocked that he had never heard the story before. The man-made famine that began 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 this but had experience in composing music.
When Lowell approached her friend Carissa Klitgaard, she said she was “equally intimidated” but “for some reason it really grabbed me. I felt drawn to it.”
Klitgaard spent the next year researching and reading journals on Ukrainian history, from the Holodomor to the hardships of World War II and the long struggle for independence, which never took place. than in 1991.
“It follows these people as they literally struggle to starve to death,” she said. “If they stole even a little grain from the field, they would be shot or sent to a camp or imprisoned.”
“It’s hard to believe that anything came out of the other side in event after event and oppression after oppression,” she said, in tears 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 amazing.”
It was the kind of story that is compelling no matter when you hear it or share it.
Lowell says that from the start, he and Klitgaard felt like instruments in the project, “guided into a deeper meaning. We just felt like we were part of it. Passengers on the train almost.”
Years of research, writing and composition culminated in a reading of the show in the fall of 2021. Little did they know then that a few months later another man-made conflict would break out in Ukraine when Russia would invade in 2022.
“For this to happen now, it’s awful. We feel their fight for freedom,” Lowell said.
Suddenly, the show titled “Kalyna the Musical” was more than just a gripping story, it was a highly relevant piece of 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 affected by the war.
Lowell and Klitgaard knew they wanted to use the show to help. So they went to Salt Lake City-based Amar International and US Friends of Amar for help.
“Ukraine, as you know, is in the most terrible situation,” said Baroness Emma Nicholson, founder of Amar.
“With a hostility, a ferocity in Europe that we haven’t seen since World War II. The degree of cruelty. The degree of horror. The degree of fear. And millions and millions fleeing.”
The Baroness Nicholson Foundation has been helping refugees in Europe for over 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 here. We’re on the ground and we’re asking 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 Stan Parrish, president of American 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 to be in the right place at the right time,” Preston said.
“A lot of what’s going on right now is right – it’s just terrible. It feels helpless,” Megan said.
She said participating in “Kalyna the Musical” was “a great experience for us to be able to give a part of something that we have.”
Dozens of other artists also participate, including the Weber State Choir, the BYU Folk Dance Team, among other musicians, dancers and actors. All of them bring a compelling story to life at what seems like the right time in history.
“I hope they are moved and feel they can give something,” Klitgaard said.
Lowell said, “We want people to feel that and see that and know that this country deserves a chance at freedom.”
“Kalyna the Musical” will be performed at the Eccles Theater on Saturday at 7 p.m. An art auction to raise funds to help Ukrainians begins at 5:30 p.m. You can find tickets and more information here at the following links: