Sung entirely without instrumentation, this joyous musical follows Jeremiah, a young gospel singer who joins a hot new boy band. His rich musical heritage is forgotten as he gives up the music of praise for the music that pays. Returning home, he discovers that his family, friends, and the women he loved have all moved on. Can the gospel music of his past help him find his true voice and reclaim the passion he left behind? Winner of the 2015 Stage Rights/NYMF Publishing Award!
("Swing Low Sweet Chariot") Jeremiah’s mother bleached the red clay out of their white button-downs Sunday evenings while the boys shared their secrets in the other room. They ironed out rough spots in their performance ("Friends"). Singing in church led to singing for tips, which led them to singing for girls for free. They grew up like brothers; then they just grew older ("Friends"). Simon chased fame and fortune, but what he really wanted was fans. He wanted to escape their small Southern town and go from the ‘music of praise’ to the ‘music that pays.’ Jeremiah was content with where he was. And with Sarah.
Jeremiah’s mother passes away ("Swing Low Sweet Chariot"). He is lost ("Abba Father"). He isn’t even interested when Simon signs them up to audition for summer jobs as backup singers for a touring pop group. Simon gets cut, and Jeremiah surprisingly takes the gig. Promising a quick return, Jeremiah goes on tour to fill in for a few weeks. It would be some years before Simon and Sarah would see him again ("Friends").
When Simon’s dream is shattered, he finds unexpected happiness in the broken pieces. He already knows, however, that happiness is fragile, too.
Jeremiah quickly sails from backup singer to boy band celebrity. He’s rushed away from a crowded arena full of screaming fans while nearby, a forgotten and ignored man on the street belts out the blues ("Jesus in the USA"). The stark contrast of the sudden success of his manufactured boyband to the genuine passion of this man singing out just because it feeds his soul makes Jeremiah realize he was chasing a dream that wasn’t his own. He appreciates not all that he has, but all that he’s lost.
They haven’t spoken in years when Simon asks his old friend to perform with him at Mabrey’s Centennial Celebration ("Soul Doctor"). Jeremiah is relieved, but reluctant. He wants to go home to the life he left in a sleepy Southern town, and to Sarah, but is it love or just nostalgia? Jeremiah returns to the place where everything is familiar, and finds that nothing really is ("Set Me Free").
Streaming decorations, rehearsing, all of Mabrey is happily gearing up for the festival – except Jeremiah’s Aunt Leona. She resents being relegated to tearing tickets and cooking casseroles, passed over in a celebration of the town’s history for people who are too young to remember any of the town’s history. Leona schemes to enlist her famous nephew’s help ("Good Livin’"). On his way to lobby for his aunt’s veteran gospel group The Peaches, he runs into Sarah, and unresolved feelings begin to stir.
The Peaches are rehearsing at Leona’s when Jeremiah breaks the news that there is no room for them in the festival the next day ("Everybody Said").
Committed to Simon, but tempted by her dangerous attraction to Jeremiah, Sarah is tormented. She views this as a personal failing and a crisis of faith ("We Are One"). Late that night, she fights the desire to go to him. She loses that fight.
The hometown crowd is treated to a powerhouse performance as the local boy-turned-pop star reunites with Simon and the other Aca-Dukes at the 100th Anniversary Celebration ("Ride The Chariot"). The unexpected consequences of Jeremiah’s leaving are exposed as Simon’s motives for bringing him back home are revealed and Sarah is in the middle of it all. Tensions escalate and the childhood friends erupt in a childish brawl on the festival stage. Angry and now humiliated, both Simon and Jeremiah run off alone ("War With Myself").
Leona and her feisty friends take advantage of the fireworks, the stunned onlookers – and the empty stage. They take over, surprising everyone with a new spin on old gospel ("Old Time Gospel").
Conflicted, Jeremiah isn’t sure he can go back to the woman he left behind. He isn’t even sure that he should ("Rescue").
Simon catches up to Jeremiah and reveals secrets he’s kept from him since they were boys. Simon relied on his family more than Jeremiah ever knew. Sarah joins them in a bittersweet truce. She and Jeremiah know he has to let go so they can all move forward. He loves them both enough to leave them ("Friends").
Finding her nephew alone in the park, Leona assures him that life is never a direct route. “You’re going to take some wrong turns,” she tells him. “But, that’s how we all get where we’re going.” Leona runs back for the finale when they hear the anniversary celebration erupt and he sings to himself. “Chasing dreams that weren’t my own, took me so far away I couldn’t find my way back home." This clicks. Jeremiah has his own path. Wherever it takes him, it will take him home ("Set Me Free").
He joins the others on the festival stage for the finale. A spectacle appears to celebrate the spirit of the people of Mabrey. All rejoice.
Gospel music is the glorious soul of "A Cappella"
–The New York Times
Jeremiah – 25, a disillusioned teen idol from a small, Southern town.
Simon – 25, Jeremiah’s rambunctious childhood friend, now mature, settled.
Sarah – 25, Jeremiah’s small-town girlfriend.
Leona – Jeremiah’s feisty aunt with attitude, likes the attention she gets.
Mary – Leona’s close, longtime friend.
Mrs. Sanders – older member of the same group, suffers no fools.
Characters Emerging from the Vocal Band:
*Mr. Turner – a seasoned singer, just happy to be invited – anywhere.
Joe, Ben, *Stevie – singers in Simon’s gospel group.
*same actor can play these roles
**Vocal Band – the ensemble of a cappella singers.
Setting: The town square/park of a small town, Leona’s kitchen, rooftop overlooking singers in the park below, the festival stage. The first two scenes span 15 years; the bulk of the play takes place over 36 hours— spring of present day.
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"It is difficult to imagine it getting any better: a group of talented a cappella singers (Broadway veterans and vocal band members), beatboxing, traditional American spiritual hymns, and a decent book about finding one’s voice and finding one’s way. …As it stands, A Cappella is a moving testament to the strength of the human spirit, the importance of the human community, and the endurance and richness of personal faith." - Theatre Reviews Limited
"The show works because the music is inspired, the performers passionate, and the journey relatable.... Meli has successfully avoided the potential pitfall of creating a disparate, incoherent story and instead honed in on a narrative which comfortably bridges the gap between the faith-based gospel music and a coming-of-age tale with broader social and personal themes. A Cappella is better than I expected, but with the right development it can be everything an audience looks for in a night at the theater: a relatable story told with drama, humor, and some terrific music." - Dave Bernstein, ACATRIBE
"The story is charming, sometimes very funny and told from the heart. ...it’s hard to find enough to say about the music–it’s proud, big, soulful, joyous,organic, and unafraid. The framework of the story is lovely and resonant to anyone who’s left home for their dreams (I’m looking at you, New York), and some tightening coupled with the excellent musical score would make it a real contender for any theater’s lineup." - NYMF Unauthorized
Materials: Your materials will be sent to you two months prior to your opening date and will include everything necessary for your production. They can be ordered in Printed or Digital format. Printed Materials are provided on unbound three-hole punched loose-leaf paper while Digital Materials are provided via email as downloadable PDF files for you to print in-house. All materials are yours to keep! No deposits, no returns.
The Authorized Materials/Rehearsal Package for A Cappella includes: