With the opening song (Life’s Good) we meet the carpenters of Bethlehem, one of whom is a young apprentice, Joseph, who works for an elderly carpenter called Simeon. Although very happy in his job, Joseph leaves Bethlehem to start his own business in Nazareth, where there is less ‘competition’! Simeon therefore needs a new apprentice (song – Scratch My Back), but when all the suitable youngsters are snapped up by other trades people, the only candidate left is a poor girl called Sarah. Although reluctant to take her on (song – The Lucky Ones), Simeon realises that Sarah is a talented woodworker when he sees the intricate carvings she is trying to sell to make money for her poor family. The two really hit it off and over time they become the most sought-after carpentry team in Bethlehem.
One day, the Roman soldiers announce that lots of visitors will soon be coming to the town. This means all the innkeepers and guesthouse owners want their properties repairing and renovating (song – Spick And Span), which in turn means lots more work for the carpenters. We learn that one particular visitor will be Joseph, Simeon’s old apprentice, who is returning to Bethlehem with his new wife Mary (song – Side By Side). Mary is soon to have a very special baby; a gift from God.
As his workload increases, sprucing up the inns and guesthouses, the now frail Simeon finds it all too much. Although desperately sorry for Sarah, he has to hang up his chisel and saw, retire from carpentry and let his apprentice go. Sarah bravely tells him that she’ll be fine and goes back to selling her carvings, hoping she’ll make enough from Bethlehem’s visitors to support her family. However, as they arrive, the visitors are more bothered about finding somewhere to stay rather than buying souvenirs. Also, their attention is drawn to the unusually starry sky(song – Stars Over Bethlehem) and they pass by Sarah without noticing her.
Sitting sadly at the roadside, Sarah is approached by one of the innkeepers. He has a broken manger which urgently needs repairing, as it’s the only place to lay a baby which has just been born in his stable! Having expertly fixed the manger (for which she generously asks no payment) Sarah then meets a group of shepherds. On the instructions of angels who appeared to them, the shepherds are hurrying to see the baby whom they’ve been told is the son of God. One shepherd feels embarrassed to meet such a special child as he has a broken crook, so again without taking payment, Sarah fixes it for him and the shepherds rush off. Sarah then meets three mysterious strangers also looking for the baby, and each carrying a gift for Him in a wooden box. Unfortunately one of the boxes (containing a gift of gold) has a broken lid (song – I’ve Broken My Box) which the stranger feels would not be right to give to the son of God. Sarah mends the box for nothing and she is left alone once again.
However, the stranger whose box she mended soon returns and, recognising Sarah’s kindness and generosity, invites her to come to the stable (song – Fill Your Hearts) to meet the baby herself. On learning that Joseph is there (having heard Simeon talk fondly of him over the years) she insists that the old man comes too. After an emotional reunion around the manger, Sarah is given some of the gold as a thank-you for her help in making this wonderful night run a little more smoothly. We are told that, with the gold, she ensures Simeon has a comfortable retirement and sets up as a carpenter in her own right, securing the future of her family. So once more, life’s good! (song – Life’s Good – reprise).