More than two decades ago, Michael McLean decided to shine a spotlight on the secondary characters in the Christmas story when he performed his first The Forgotten Carols musical.
Since then, The Forgotten Carols has been seen by more than a million people across North America and will make a stop Nov. 24 in the Windermere Theatre at Toyota Center in Kennewick. Showtime is 7:30 p.m.
It's the story of the first Christmas through the eyes of lesser-known folks who were around when Jesus was born, McLean said in a telephone interview with the Herald.
"It was December in 1990 as I sat in my studio noodling on this melody in my head about a man forgotten," he said.
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As he tinkered at the melody on his piano, the story started to take shape about all those forgotten folks: the innkeeper who turned Joseph and Mary away in Bethlehem, the shepherd who fell asleep while watching his flock and the midwife who helped deliver the baby Jesus.
"I decided to write a book about where the carols came from that heralded those long ago events," McLean said. "My hope was people would buy the book and read it to their kids on Christmas."
But the book also ended up a musical stage show with McLean playing the key storyteller role.
"That first year, I played all the roles, but now I have a full cast and crew," he said. "I have a cousin who lives in your town, so I'm excited to bring my show to Kennewick."
McLean's story follows Constance, a young nurse who views Christmas as a meaningless distraction, until she is assigned to care for an elderly man during the holidays whom doctors say has psychiatric tendencies. But Constance soon falls under the spell of the old man's warmth and kindness as he tells the tales of the untold carols of the forgotten characters in the Christmas story.
As the story unfolds, the audience watches as Constance's calloused heart is softened and she soon discovers there is a Christmas carol waiting to be sung within her own heart.
McLean still has a role in The Forgotten Carols, even though all the characters are played by actors.
As the show wraps up, McLean comes on stage and sits at the piano and puts the story in perspective, he said.
McLean has composed music for and released 30 albums, which have sold more than a million copies. He composed music for six films and co-wrote one off-Broadway play, The Ark, with Kevin Kelly. McLean also has a new musical out called Threads, which is about women and clothes. One song in the show was inspired by a trip to Costco that McLean took with his 3-year-old granddaughter.
"She had her eye on a dress she saw there and was determined not to leave the store without it," McLean said. He couldn't resist writing the song, I'm Not Leaving Costco Until I have that Dress on Me, which is his favorite song in Threads.
Tickets to The Forgotten Carols cost from $13 to $30 with group rates available. Tickets are available at the Toyota Center box office or www.ticketmaster.com.
*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; firstname.lastname@example.org