Michael McLean’s much-loved “The Forgotten Carols” hits the big screen starting on Friday.
The film will be shown at Rexburg’s Fat Cats Cinema 6 and at the Paramount 5. The movie is being distributed throughout Idaho, Utah, and Arizona.
McLean opted to make a film about his stage play due to COVID-19 restrictions preventing him from touring as he has for 29 years. The hope is that “The Forgotten Carols” film will give more people the chance to enjoy the story.
“I had people tell me when we were doing a show in Phoenix, ‘Oh, Michael, I’m sorry, I can’t come that night’ or ‘The tickets are too expensive to bring my whole family,” he said. “What’s so cool about this, is that everybody can afford to go to the movies. Everybody can see it. It will be in places we never could have gotten to.”
“The Forgotten Carols” tells the story of nurse Connie Lou whose life is transformed after new patient Uncle John tells her about Christ’s birth via various characters from the first Christmas story.
McLean got the idea to present his stage play in film form after seeing the popular play “Hamilton” broadcast earlier this year.
“That got me to thinking — ‘I’ve been trying to make The Forgotten Carols a movie for a long time.’ It’s a film, not a movie, but a film of the stage play,” he said.
Earlier this year, McLean and crew made the film version of “The Forgotten Carols.” McLean watched the film on Wednesday, and says it was the first time that he had ever seen his own play.
“It’s weird for me to see myself. I have never in the 29 years seen ‘The Forgotten Carols’,” he said.
Thanks to “The Forgotten Carols” film adaptation, McLean and his wife, Lynne, and their family will spend the holiday together at home for the first time in nearly three decades.
“The whole idea of being able to have Thanksgiving at my own house — oh, my gosh — I don’t know how to act. I think when you ask the question ‘Am I going to miss the touring?’ — the connection with the people for whom this has become a holiday tradition have become like family. I will miss that connection,” he said.
In 1991, McLean started performing “The Forgotten Carols” where he played all the characters and had local high school choirs accompany him. The play gradually grew to include more actors playing the various roles. It’s been performed throughout the United States to much acclaim.
Despite the ongoing accolades, McLean often struggled with depression feeling like he didn’t deserve any of the praise, and at one point considered cancelling his roadshow. That all changed after he learned that his play had changed a woman’s perspective on Christmas from dread to delight. After hearing that, McLean continued with his play, and thanks to medication, he managed his depression and carried on.
A devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, McLean has written various Church songs and movies like “Mr. Krueger’s Christmas.” Yet, despite all his work for the Church, McLean suffered a crisis of faith where he felt heaven had shuttered. Such dragged on for nine years, he said.
McLean eventually came across the book “Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light” featuring letters written by the late Catholic Saint. The book tells of, despite Mother Teresa feeling like God wasn’t there for her, she remained steadfast in her beliefs.
McLean later had a dream where he played the piano as Mother Teresa sang along.
“I’m accompanying her singing the song of her life and her faith struggle. Why didn’t she stop believing in God? She sang ‘I choose to pray to one who doesn’t hear me. I choose to wait for love that God conceals. Though he’s chosen for now not to be near me, I’m keeping promises my heart no longer feels’,” he said.
Two years into his struggle, McLean promised God he would remain committed to his beliefs and stop complaining. Another seven hard years went by before McLean again felt God’s presence. It all came via the Christmas stories he told, and he began to feel and express gratitude, he said.
“I used to think I was given the gift of this story to help someone else. What I realized was the gift was for me. I was able to hang on through those difficult nine years,” he said.
The chance to share “The Forgotten Carols” through the film enables McLean to share his gift with others continually, he said.
“People can watch it over and over again. Everyone can see it when it’s convenient for them. People can go into theaters and feel this. This is the present I’ve made for you,” he said.
For more information on the upcoming “The Forgotten Carols” film visit https://forgottencarols.com/.