M Scott McLean: Actor, songwriter and, now, published children's author

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M Scott McLean co-authored “Fairy Tale Christmas” with his father, Michael. Photo by John Moore.

Scott_McLean_A_Christmas_Carol_Fairy_Tale_Christmas_Book_1M Scott McLean is one charming guy, he’d be the … last one to admit. Now … charmed? Yep, he’ll own that.

The affable actor and songwriter is now the rare first-time author to be published. By a real publisher. And less than a year after he started writing the book.

“Amazing, isn’t it? Lucky, lucky, lucky … and a complete surprise,” said McLean, who is currently playing Fred and young Ebenezer Scrooge in the DCPA Theatre Company’s A Christmas Carol through Dec. 28.

McLean and his father, Michael, are the co-authors of a new children’s novella called Fairy Tale Christmas, which was published Oct. 1 by Shadow Mountain Publishing. And the McLeans have developed an accompanying live theatre adaptation, complete with a 15-song original score.

McLean will host the DCPA’s “16th Annual Holiday Reading” at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 15, at the Colfax Tattered Cover. He’ll read from several holiday classics, as well as his new book. 

Scott_McLean_Christmas_Carol_Fairy_Tale_Quote_1The adorable premise: Santa Claus has been kidnapped by some recognizable, archetypal villains. They are a gang of thugs who have been made unemployed by all those “happily ever after” fairy tales. We’re talking Rumpelstiltskin, an evil queen, a wicked stepmother, a sorceress and a certain beanstalk giant. Their diabolical mission? To erase that term — Happily Ever After — from our storybooks forever.

 “The villains have conspired to hold Santa for ransom until all of the good fairy-tale characters agree to change their endings,” McLean said. “If they don’t, Christmas will be ruined for all children of the world.”

Well, hold your sleigh bells. Not with Pinocchio, Cinderella, Jack and Belle on the case. To save the day, the fairy-tale heroes wrestle with a holiday conundrum: Should they sacrifice “happily ever after” to save Christmas? Isn’t that a little like negotiating with terrorists? Think of all this as a bit Into the Woods, a bit How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and a bit 24.

The book, recommended for readers age 7-14, is available through the Tattered Cover web site or also on Amazon.Com ($15.99).

After just 10 weeks, McLean already is hearing back from children around the world. One message that particularly struck him was from a 10-year-old named Raymond:

“I had so much fun reading this book. I laughed so hard one time, I think they heard me from China. It was such a happy story. It’s the kind of book that makes you feel good inside.”

“That made me cry,” said McLean. “It is fun to be a part of something that is that uplifting.”

The story is resonating with readers, McLean believes, because it offers a simple and reparative message for children at an evidently troubled time in our world.

Scott_McLean_A_Christmas_Carol_Fairy_Tale_Christmas_Book_2“In our story, Santa Claus has decided to change his policy that all naughty kids get coal,” McLean said. “This year, every kid is going to get a gift, because there is good in every kid. Maybe the reason kids are naughty is because no one has told them that they are good. Maybe the gift they get this Christmas will turn them around and open their hearts so they can see that they are part of so much good in the world.”

If that sounds like a holiday miracle, consider what it took to get A Fairy Tale Christmas published … in a matter of just months.

That story begins 31 years ago in Heber, Utah, a tiny town of 13,000 near Park City. Michael McLean, Scott’s father, had the idea for the “heroes vs. villains” story 30 years ago, and wrote the first two songs to go with it.

“The idea at the time was for it to be a little children’s coloring book with crayons and a cassette recording so you could listen to the songs,” said Scott McLean, who moved to Denver in 2006 as a member of the DCPA’s National Theatre Conservatory masters program. He has performed in 12 mainstage productions for the Theatre Company, including Death of a Salesman, Animal Crackers and five different annual stagings of A Christmas Carol.

Last Christmas, when McLean went home to visit his family for the holidays, he and his father decided to write some songs and stories together, as they had done throughout Scott’s youth. “I said, ‘Well, what about Fairy Tale Christmas? That thing from 30 years ago? Let’s flesh that out and make that into a real play,’” Scott said.   

Michael McLean is a songwriter and storyteller by trade who has released more than two dozen albums and produced several award-winning films. His annual Christmas production, adapted from his book The Forgotten Carols, has been performed throughout the U.S. since 1991.

Scott_McLean_Christmas_Carol_Fairy_Tale_Quote_2“He’s a very encouraging and supportive dad who has been a sounding board in my own writing throughout my life,” said Scott. “I consider him a mentor and a really good friend.”

The two went into their writing cave in January and came out a few weeks later with what they thought was a 45-minute stage musical, complete with six news songs. But they had no luck finding a theatrical producer. Shadow Mountain Publishing, based in Salt Lake City, told the McLeans if they adapted the idea into a children’s novella, they would publish it.

“That was a complete surprise, because we pitched it as a musical,” McLean said.

In addition to the book, complete with illustrations by Jason Quinn, the McLeans have completed a full-length musical stage adaptation that is available for licensing.

In the meantime, Scott McLean is  immersed in his fifth staging of A Christmas Carol for the DCPA. He is performing 10 shows a week throughout December. McLean welcomes the fatigue.

“It sounds corny, but I do genuinely love this gig,” he said. “It’s a grueling schedule, but there is something about this story — and there’s something about the people who come to see this who really need this story. It surprises me every night how energized I am by it.”

While he also pursues his acting career in New York, McLean is grateful that the DCPA has given him an artistic home for the past decade.

“We all accept that Broadway is the greatest stage for American theatre, but outside of New York, I think this is the greatest theatre to work at in the country, without a doubt, in terms of the quality of the work and the quality of the people who work here,” he said.

“I’m happy when I get a job here, and I’m sad when I have to leave.”

Fairy Tale Christmas: An excerpt:

Once upon a Christmastime, just a few bedtime stories before Christmas Eve, and long after every “happily ever after” ending, a clandestine meeting was being held. Of course, you’d expect such a meeting to be undercover, underhanded, sneaky, and dishonorable, but that’s not why it was called a clandestine meeting. Before this meeting, at the annual Long Ago Island Job Fair for disenchanted fairy-tale villains seeking new employment, a bossy stepmother, a hungry Giant, a vengeful six-foot Fairy Queen, a self-absorbed Drama Queen, and a creepy little schemer with a truly bizarre name decided to skip the job fair altogether and call themselves “The Clandestines.” They did this partly because all of them were, in fact, underhanded, sneaky, and dishonorable, but it was mostly because “The Clandestines” made for a much better sounding name than “Evil Fairy Tale Villains.” And “The Temptations” had already been taken.

DCPA’s 16th Annual Holiday Reading:

  • 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 15
  • Free
  • Warm drinks, treats provided
  • M Scott McLean reads from several holiday classics, including his new book for young readers, A Fairy Tale Christmas
  • Colfax Tattered Cover Book Store, 2526 E. Colfax Ave., Denver
  • Guests are encouraged to bringing a new or gently used book as a donation to Tattered Cover’s annual Children’s Book Drive, which benefits Reach Out and Read Colorado. More information: Click here


Order Fairy Tale Christmas online:

The book, recommended for readers age 7-14, is available through the Tattered Cover web site or also on Amazon.Com ($15.99).

A Christmas Carol: Ticket information
Performances run through Dec. 28
Stage Theatre
Performances daily except Mondays
Call 303-893-4100, or go to the Denver Center’s web site at www.denvercenter.org

Our previous coverage of
this year’s A Christmas Carol:
Video: The Christmas Carol Coast to Coast Challenge. No. 1: Denver
By the numbers: ‘A Christmas Carol’ over 22 years at the DCPA
First day of 2014 rehearsal: Interviews, cast list and photos
Meet the cast video: James Michael Reilly
Video: Leslie O’Carroll performs A Christmas O’Carroll … in 5 minutes

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M Scott McLean has appeared in five DCPA stagings of “A Christmas Carol.” Photo by Terry Shapiro.

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M Scott McLean in last spring’s “Animal Crackers.” Photo by Jennifer M.. Koskinen.

Scott_McLean_Fairy_Tale_Christmas_800_5M Scott McLean with Lauren Klein in the 2013 staging of “Death of a Salesman.” Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.

Meet the cast video series: M Scott McLean

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