Most families and communities have Christmas traditions and customs they take part in every year. Things like caroling, acting out the Nativity, and hanging up lights are part of what makes us love Christmas. 

Over the past three decades, a certain holiday performance has become one of those traditions.  

Michael McLean’s “The Forgotten Carols” returns to East Idaho this week in its 28th consecutive year on tour. 

They—the music of which is available on Amazon—will be at the Blackfoot Performing Arts Center on Friday, Nov. 29 at 7:30 pm. and at the Idaho Falls Civic Auditorium on Saturday, Nov. 30 at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. 

The play’s creator and well-known musician, Michael McLean, recently spoke with BYU-Idaho Radio about continuing the tradition and how this year is going to be different. 

“I had no idea in 1991—I mean zero—that anyone would ever want to see it again,” he said. It’s grown consistently. 

The stage show follows the fictional story of the elderly and somewhat delirious “John” (many speculate he is the immortal John the Beloved from the New Testament) as he recalls the experience of lesser-known characters surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ. 

McLean performs songs like “The Innkeeper,” “The Shepherd,” and “I Cannot Find My Way” as he tells the stories to his nurse Constance (Connie Lou).  

McLean also said East Idaho is a special place for him personally as a performance destination, as the Civic Auditorium in Idaho Falls was the first place to ever sell out for one of his shows. 

“The great folks of Southeast Idaho embraced me as family,” he said. “[They] made me feel great, as limited as my skills were.” 

After some serious health problems a year ago and a flirt with death, McLean felt moved to adapt the stage show story to the big screen. Along with his son, McLean wrote a script for a “Forgotten Carols” movie. Basically, the story was given a 2019 makeover with more modern references and allusions. 

That adaptation eventually worked itself back into the stage production, with the new changes premiering in Blackfoot on Friday night. 

McLean was hesitant to make those adjustments, as the show had been so well-received in the past, yet he felt drawn to do so. He even said he feels part of the reason he’s “still sticking around” after nearly passing away is to tell this story. 

“What I most want to happen is I want for people to connect with the Spirit…to create a space where people can actually have an experience that transcends what you’re trying to do theatrically,” he said of the upcoming performance. 

Tickets are sold out for the Blackfoot showing but are still available for the Idaho Falls showings on Saturday.