A “reimagined” version of Michael McLean’s “The Forgotten Carols” is coming to Logan this Saturday as a part of an 11-city tour.
The play is in its 28th year of production and has changed a lot in that time, beginning as a one-man show starring McLean and expanding into a popular show featuring a full cast and music. But this year the changes are more deliberate, with major additions coming to the play.
“The things that have changed feel like, to me, I think this is like it always should have been this way,” McLean said.
The story focuses around a nurse whose life is changed by a new patient who recounts the Christmas story in a unique way, featuring a diverse array of characters and music. McLean didn’t want to reveal too much and ruin the surprise but wanted to be clear that everything audiences liked about the production were staying.
“People ask, ‘Well, has it changed so much that there won’t be the same songs?’” McLean said. “No. It’s the carols you’ve always loved and it’s the characters that you’ve loved and it’s the cast that you’ve loved for the last number of years.”
New aspects of the play include updating the setting from 1973 to 2019 and deepening the background of a central character played by McLean, as well as exploring themes of aging and perspective.
“These songs, that I thought were about one thing, this (updated) telling of this story has made these songs seem to me more relevant, more meaningful,” McLean said. “I think the storytelling is more fun, funnier and more profound for 2019.”
Following a near-death experience in early 2018, McLean had a multi-year recovery ahead of him, a challenge that extended to his busy performance schedule.
McLean said he almost didn’t do “The Forgotten Carols” last year due to his health, giving up almost all other projects to work on the show. He also gave up what he calls “Act 3” — staying after each show to mingle with the audience.
“I thought, ‘What do I need to do, why am I still here?’” McLean said. “I didn’t know what was going to happen.”
McLean said the changes first formed during conversations about adapting “Carols” into a movie, with an eye toward the future of the production.
“We started working on a script — my son Scott and I — and started to explore things like having the freedom of not just being on a stage but all the great cinematic things you can do,” he said. “How would you tell this story a little differently, what could we say, what could we show, and what would maybe change.”
During the work, McLean began to consider bringing the changes they’d made in the process to the stage version as well, giving the nearly 30-year-old play new life and meaning.
“The spirit of what this is saying is so crucial and so important, and I’ve changed in my own feeling about how to see this story, that I really feel compelled,” McLean said. “Like I’ve got to do this. Maybe this is one of the reasons I’m still around, to get this told right.”
“The Forgotten Carols” is coming to Logan on Saturday, Dec. 7, with showings at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.