Michael McLean reflects on 20 years of The Forgotten Carols

ST. GEORGE – The Forgotten Carols returns to Utah’s Dixie with its 20th anniversary tour.

Michael McLean, the creator of the Forgotten Carols, will be reprising his role as John, an eccentric old man who loves the holidays. Assigned to be his caretaker is Constance, a humorless nurse who sees Christmas as a trivial waste of time. However, Constance soon learns there is more to John and the holiday season as he shares with her the carols of forgotten characters from the Christmas story. Each carol slowly begins to melt the icy nurse’s exterior, until she discovers there is a carol of her own inside that is yearning to be sung.

During the last 20 years, McLean has played John for over a million people in 19 different states and parts of Canada. For the 20th anniversary tour, the cast of crew of the will be performing 24 shows in five states over a five week period.

So, will there be any surprises in store for audiences this anniversary year?

“Yes, but we can’t tell you,” McLean said. “We added a special nod to the 20th anniversary.”

McLean said The Forgotten Carols tour, which started on Nov. 29, at the Kerns Arena in Logan, had become a Christmas tradition for some families, and provided a great “kickoff to the holiday season.”

Yet, what is it about the story of the Forgotten Carols that has made it so popular for so long?

“What makes the Forgotten Carols so special is the season,” McLean said. “So many people are touched by the characters.”

He said the audience is able to identify with the characters presented in the show. People who feel they are lost may compare themselves to the three magi sung about in “I Cannot Find My Way,” while others may better identify with the regret of missed opportunities like the innkeeper described in “Let Him In.”

People may make a special connection with Constance, McLean said. There is an exchange between the nurse and John where she says she wants to believe in the message of Christmas, but is not sure if it is possible for her.  In response, John replies that having the mere desire to want to believe is enough to begin the process of opening her heart to the wonder of the season.

Christmas miracles

Traditionally, one of the staples of the Christmas season seems to be the multitude of personal miracles individuals come to experience. McLean noted it was no different when people came to see The Forgotten Carols.

“It happens every night,” he said. “There have been miraculous and remarkable things.”

McLean does not take credit for whatever experiences members of the audience have while watching the program.

“I can’t take credit for the miracles heaven does,” he said.

People are more willing to open up their hearts at Christmas, McLean added, and said it was hard to put his finger and any one event he had witnessed take place during the last 20 years.

“I don’t know which one to pick,” he said, but soon focused on an experience he had in Dallas, Texas.

There was a woman who invited her friend along to see The Forgotten Carols. The woman’s friend had suffered a very traumatic experience on Christmas Eve many years prior, and had not celebrated the holiday since that time.

After every show, people approach McLean and thank him for creating The Forgotten Carols and share how it had touched their lives. That particular night, the woman and her friend came to see him. Something in the program had impacted the woman’s friend and changed her perception of the holiday for the better.

“How can I thank the guy who gave my best friend Christmas back?” is what the woman said to McLean that night.

The show creates an atmosphere for miracles, McLean said.

How it started

McLean produced several albums for Deseret Book in the 1980s. One day officials from Deseret Book approached him with a project – they wanted him to create a Christmas album.

He wasn’t too sure about the proposal at first. The market was already saturated with Christmas carols and many decades-worth of their various remakes.

“All the best Christmas songs have already been made,” he said.

McLean said he wasn’t crazy about the idea of doing his own version of classic Christmas songs either. Still, Deseret Book wanted a Christmas album. After pondering about what to do, inspiration finally came.

A particular set of words came McLean’s mind, “I am a man forgotten; nobody recalls my name.”

Those words formed the first lines of “Let Him In,” the song about the innkeeper who turned Mary and Joseph away that first Christmas night.

The song then prompted McLean to ask, “What about the people who have been forgotten; those who believed (in the Christ’s birth), yet where not there?”

These questions formed the basis of The Forgotten Carols. As they were produced, McLean asked another question, what if there were a story connecting all of the songs of The Forgotten Corals together?

Ultimately The Forgotten Carols album and accompanying storybook chronicling the experience of Constance were produced.

According to a press release from Deseret Book, fans of The Forgotten Carols demanded a stage performance, and thus the tour was born.

“To my great surprise the book (and album) became very successful and my performing it became tradition,” McLean said.

The Forgotten Carols will be showing at the Cox Auditorium at Dixie State College on Dec. 14, 15 and 16 at 7:30 p.m.  Tickets can be acquired at ForgottenCarols.com or by calling (435)652-7800. There is a 15 percent discount for groups of 10 or more.

Cast recordings of the 20th anniversary tour of The Forgotten Carols will be available at the Cox Auditorium the nights of the performance, at Deseret Book, and other retail outlets.

[email protected]

Copyright 2011 St. George News. This material may not be published or rewritten without written consent.


Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.