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‘The Forgotten Carols’ returning to eastern Idaho this weekend with new actor in lead role

Arts & Entertainment

IDAHO FALLS – For over three decades, audiences in eastern Idaho have enjoyed kicking off their Christmas season with the live stage production “The Forgotten Carols.”

The show is returning for its 31st year at the Idaho Falls Civic Center for the Performing Arts this weekend, with several major changes to the cast.

The leading role of Uncle John, previously played by Michael McLean, will be performed by Michael Young. Christy Summerhays, who also plays a small part in the show, is returning as the director.

EastIdahoNews.com spoke with both performers via Zoom about the reason for the changes and what’s in store this year.

“Michael’s had some long-haul COVID issues, and he’s in a position where he needs a kidney transplant,” Young says of McLean. “Right now, he’s doing okay. He’s waiting on an operation, which is coming up really soon. So he’s quarantining and making sure that he doesn’t get any other health issues. He’s in good spirits.”

McLean passed the baton to Young last year, who brings with him a long background of TV, movie and stage experience.

Young went to high school with McLean’s wife, Lynne, and he was familiar with the show and McLean’s character. He says stepping into the role of Uncle John has been “a wonderful holiday experience.”

“I’ve seen the show many times and so when Michael called me last year and said, ‘I’m not fully at my peak and I don’t want to disappoint my audiences. Would you come and help me play the role of Uncle John?’ I said, ‘Absolutely, I’ll be there.’ It’s been a real joy for me to play this character,” says Young.

But even amid cast changes, Summerhays says McLean will still be involved in the show. One of the big draws for fans is the post-show where McLean connects with the audiences for several solo performances. McLean will be present virtually for this part of the program, says Summerhays.

“He wrote a new song for his audience this year. Anytime I say, ‘Michael, do you have anything you want to say?’ he comes back to me with a song,” she says, laughing. “So, he really is going to be there with you.”

Still, Summerhays says Young is “a wonderful actor,” and they are “lucky … to have him” as part of the cast.

“He makes it really magical,” she says.

forgotten carols cast photo
The cast of “The Forgotten Carols” in 2021. | Michelle Moore

And the changes seem to be resonating with fans because the 2022 tour includes the most performances in more than a decade.

Though watching it has become a tradition for many people, Summerhays says it continues to resonate and attract new crowds yearly.

The “forgotten” messages Uncle John tells Connie Lou about in the play is one reason why Young says it’s a timeless story for people.

“My character tells Connie Lou about forgotten characters in the Bible narrative. Each one of these stories and the characters John claims he’s met over his 2,030 years of life — each one has a story with a moral lesson,” he says. “Every song has a special meaning to somebody.”

Summerhays agrees, adding that it’s also “a lot of fun.”

“I’ve given my blessing to Christy, Tyler Castleton (the producer), Julie Johnston (producer), Michael Young, and the entire cast to march forth because the world needs ‘The Forgotten Carols’ more than ever,” McLean says in a news release.

People in eastern Idaho can see it at the Blackfoot Performing Arts Center on Friday, Nov. 25 and in Idaho Falls the following day. The show will begin at 7:30 each night with a matinee show at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.

For tickets or more information, click here.

WATCH OUR INTERVIEW WITH YOUNG AND SUMMERHAYS IN THE VIDEO ABOVE.

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