Michael McLean’s ‘The Forgotten Carols’ makes leap to big screen

Michael McLean’s ‘The Forgotten Carols’ makes leap to big screen

For 29 years, "The Forgotten Carols" stage play by Michael McLean has inspired and brought Christmas joy to thousands of theater goers.

On Friday, "The Forgotten Carols" will appear on the big screen, beginning in seven states, from Utah to Pennsylvania. More theaters will be added in the coming weeks.

In Utah County, residents can see the film adaptation at Cinemark and Megaplex theaters.

Due to the pandemic, "The Forgotten Carols" will forego its usual stage performances, but to keep the nearly three decade-long holiday tradition alive, McLean and the cast and crew worked non-stop earlier this year to produce a big-screen adaptation of the musical to release this holiday season.

“When Hamilton was released on Disney+, I thought maybe people would come and see it,” McLean said. “I felt strongly we had to share this.”

McLean said, at first, it was hard to find a theater that would let them film because of the pandemic, but he and partner Brandon Purdie found a stage in Iron County and began filming in September.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to partner with Michael on bringing ‘The Forgotten Carols’ from stage to screen,” said Purdie, president and founder of Purdie Distribution. “’The Forgotten Carols’ film will allow this joyful tradition to continue for current fans, and I believe it will make many new fans, as well.”

Purdie Distribution has been the distributor of the most successful LDS-genre films of the past decade, including "Saints and Soldiers" films, "The Saratov Approach," "Once I Was A Beehive" and "The Fighting Preacher," to name a few.

Years ago, McLean and his son, Scott, had been working on adapting the stage version of "The Forgotten Carols" as a feature film, and it was this process that inspired changes to the stage production, which were implemented during last year’s tour.

“After Scott and I wrote the screenplay for the film, there were so many elements we fell in love with that are now included in the stage version,” McLean said. “And the changes we’ve made just feel right. They make the characters deeper, the story more spiritual, and the experience that much richer.”

McLean said those who have seen the stage play will notice changes such as musical numbers being moved to different spots in the story.

“After 29 years, this is where the show should be,” McLean said. “I feel it was meant to be during this pandemic.”

Watching it, McLean said it will feel like “meatloaf or mac and cheese; it’s comfort food.”

To do something like this during a pandemic was not only brave but also — according to McLean — miraculous. McLean said there were enough of those miracles that happened that he could only come to one conclusion: people need it.

“This version is a radical reimagining of how to tell the story,” McLean said. “It takes place in 2019, not 1970, and we’ve added new arrangements.”

According to the synopsis of McLean’s story synopsis:

“’Miracles really do happen at Christmas,’ says Uncle John to his nurse, Connie Lou. A statement that fills her soul with the hope of Christmas as she hears the ’forgotten’ carols from this strange, wonderful man.Long-time fans and first-time audiences alike will laugh, cry and find the true meaning and spirit of Christmas as they experience this never-before-seen edition of McLean’s holiday classic.Audiences will listen as Uncle John recounts the story of Christ’s birth as told by lesser-known characters from the Nativity through story and song. The Inn Keeper, the Shepherd and others help Connie Lou discover what the world has forgotten about Christmas, ultimately opening her heart to the joy of this special season.”

For those who can’t imagine a Christmas without seeing "The Forgotten Carols" live and on the stage, McLean and the producers are emphatic.

“We will return to the stage in 2021 to present ‘The Forgotten Carols’ during the extended 30th Anniversary live tour," the cast and crew insists.

McLean said he had never seen himself do the show because he was always in it. Now that he has seen himself on the big screen and experienced the story, he said he can’t wait for others to receive the gift.

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