A holiday tradition for many east Idaho families is returning this weekend
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IDAHO FALLS — Michael McLean has a special reason to be grateful this Thanksgiving. As he kicks off the 27th year of his live stage show “The Forgotten Carols,” he says he’s thankful for the chance to be a part of a Christmas tradition in east Idaho.
“I’m grateful for the tremendous amount of support people in southeast Idaho have given me from the very beginning,” McLean tells EastIdahoNews.com. “It’s impossible to tell you how much that means. Coming up to Idaho Falls is a little bit like coming home.”
Fresh off the first show of the season in his hometown of Heber City, Utah, McLean is making a stop in Idaho Falls Saturday for his next performance.
Ahead of this weekend’s performance at the Civic Auditorium, McLean says he hopes to bring all the magic of Christmas people expect from previous years along with several new things.
“We have a new (actor playing) Constance this year and she’s terrific,” McLean says. “This year, there is (also) a pretty cool little surprise in the form of a new song. It’s my favorite thing we’ve done in years.”
McLean’s wife, Lynne, has been part of the show every year. His son, Jeff, has also performed in the show in recent years. Getting a production like this to become a tradition takes a few years, McLean says, but doing it year after year captures the real meaning of Christmas and keeps it fresh and rewarding.
“Every time I do it, I learn something and that absolutely astounds me,” says McLean. “There will be times when a line in the script that really didn’t jump out at me before, will suddenly have this rich, new meaning.”
Earlier this year, McLean spent time in the hospital and had to face the reality of his own mortality. This experience humbled him and got him thinking about what matters most.
“I started to think about the Uncle John character (whom McLean portrays in the show) and what it would be like if you knew you were going to be alive until Jesus came back. How would that change your perspective? My daughter is also battling cancer. So, there’s a lot of things that have added a new richness (to the show). I’m really tender about it all this year.”
“The Forgotten Carols” began in 1991 as a one-man stage show performed by McLean. There was huge demand for it the following year, so he brought it back. Since then, it has grown to become a fully produced stage show featuring a full cast with local and regional choirs.
Prior to “Forgotten Carols,” McLean was a popular speaker, singer/songwriter and film producer among members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“When I started writing songs, I wasn’t thinking I was writing to members of my own faith. I was just writing about my life,” says McLean.
After attending a piano concert with his piano instructor as an 11-year-old kid in Salt Lake City, McLean felt inspired to start writing his own music.
“Most of them were terrible songs, but nuggets from those songs became the inspiration for songs that have sold hundreds of thousands of copies.”
The song that launched his professional career as a singer/songwriter was “You’re Not Alone,” which he wrote while working as the producer for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in 1981.
Prior to his recording career, he wrote commercial jingles for ZCMI, Deseret Book and many other well known companies.
“Sometimes songs can teach me lessons the only way my heart will hear them,” McLean says.
McLean says a film adaptation of “Forgotten Carols” is in the works. McLean also wrote and produced another Christmas musical “Fairytale Christmas.” The show’s second season premieres next week at Tuacahn Amphitheatre in St. George, Utah.
You can catch McLean and the cast of “Forgotten Carols” at the Civic Auditorium Saturday, Nov. 24. There will be a matinee performance at 2:30 p.m. and an evening performance at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased through the “Forgotten Carols” website.
“I hope that we keep making this (show) a worthwhile experience. Part of what’s so magical about this isn’t that I’m so great. I’m not a great singer or actor, but I’m surrounded by great singers and actors, and I hope we can bring the magic of Christmas to the people who come,” McLean says.