In the opening song (All Work, No Play), we meet James, who longs to escape his dull life tending to the animals in the stable behind an inn. The innkeeper, his wife and the maid only add to James’s woes, criticizing his work and calling him a ‘lazy good-for-nothing’! Though fed-up with their harsh words, James finds comfort in his dream of one day becoming a fisherman, like those who visit the inn after a long but thrilling day aboard their boats on the Sea of Galilee (song – A Fisherman’s Life).
One morning James is told by the excited innkeeper that he needs to double his efforts around the stable, as Bethlehem is full of visitors all looking for a place to stay and to rest their donkeys after their long journeys (song – Knock! Knock! Knock!). James has to forget his day-dreaming for a while, and concentrate on seeing to all the four-legged arrivals (song – Donkey Work)!
As James sleeps soundly, exhausted from his busiest day ever, the stable animals notice that the night sky seems far brighter than usual. They realise that, as the stars dance, it must be a sign that something wonderful is about to happen (song – Song Of The Stars). As the largest star settles overhead, the innkeeper ushers in a woman (who is soon to have a baby) and a man. He explains that he can only offer them the stable, as the inn is full. He roughly wakes up James, telling him to tend to the couple’s donkey. The woman and man speak kindly to James, and he knows they must be very special people indeed. As a host of angels watches over the scene, James takes the donkey and leaves the couple to have their baby in peace (song – Jesus Is Born).
And the visitors just keep coming! First, some shepherds arrive with a lamb, much to the annoyance of the maid, who instructs James to stop the animal chewing her washing! Next come three royal visitors on camels (to which James must tend), with gifts for the baby. Soon the stable is full to bursting, as everyone gathers round the manger on which the baby is laid, and gives thanks for his birth (song – Kneel At The Manger). When James is invited by the woman to come closer and see the baby, he is filled with a with a feeling of hope, believing his life can change for the better and that great things lie ahead for him.
We learn, as a postscript from the narrators, that James’s dreams of becoming a fisherman do indeed come true. One day he is greeted from his fishing boat by a gentle young man, whose eyes James recognises as those of the baby he met in the stable many years before. The man invites James to join Him, leading him on the biggest adventure of his life! (song – Dreams Can Come True).