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Renowned U.S. songwriter works on ‘Beaches’ musical with Calgary performers

Click to play video: 'Renowned U.S. songwriter works on new musical with Calgary performers'
Renowned U.S. songwriter works on new musical with Calgary performers
WATCH: It’s the chance of a lifetime for some talented young Calgarians. As Gil Tucker tells us, they’re helping to shape a new show with a pop music legend. – May 8, 2024

It’s the chance of a lifetime for some talented young Calgarians.

They’re helping to shape a new show with a pop music legend.

Legendary American songwriter Mike Stoller is in Calgary creating the songs for the Theatre Calgary production of Beaches – The Musical.

Stoller has written dozens of popular hit songs, going back to the 1950s.

“With my late partner, Jerry Leiber, we wrote songs like Hound Dog, Jailhouse Rock and Stand By Me,” Stoller said.

Now, at the age of 91, Leiber is providing the tunes for the international premiere of Beaches – The Musical, based on the well-known book and movie.

“I had the pleasure of hearing the band rehearsing for the first time,” Stoller said. “I’m a happy camper.”

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Calgary actor/singer/dancers Katie McMillan, 24, and Jillian Hubler-McManus, 18, are enjoying working on the show in the Theatre Calgary rehearsal hall alongside Stoller and the other show business veterans.

“It’s an amazing opportunity,” McMillan said. “(Stoller’s) a musical genius. It’s amazing to watch him work.”

“I never could’ve dreamed of this possibility – it’s so cool!” McManus said. “Mike is one of the greats and he’s written so many songs that I have on my playlist.”

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The cast and crew include several people with extensive experience working on Broadway productions.

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Those in Calgary from New York include Kelli Barrett and Jessica Vosk, performing in the two lead roles.

“It’s a treat,” Vosk said. “Getting to work with younger actors, it makes me remember what it was like to be a kid and love this so much.”

Barrett also appreciates working with the young Calgary performers.

“They’re working so hard and they’re really talented,” Barrett said. “We’re blown away by the level of talent here.”

Stoller has also been impressed by the Calgarians involved in the show.

“They’re marvelous,” Stoller said. “Sensational actors and dancers.”

The young Calgarians in the rehearsal hall say working with the show biz veterans is really helping them develop their talents.

“It’s quite an amazing collaboration between our city and the New Yorkers and the people from L.A.,” McMillan said.

“They’ve really taken us under their wing and if I have any questions, I can go to them,” McManus said. “I’m learning so, so much from them.”

The Theatre Calgary production runs from May 18 to June 16 in the Max Bell Theatre at Arts Commons.

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Stoller has high hopes for the show: “I would love it to go to Broadway.”

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