The music’s over for Bill Bailey.
The barbershop singer’s life is just too busy. He decides something has to go and music, which he’s loved for years, is picked to pitch even though his wife, Brenda, supports his singing.
Heaven has other plans, dispatching an angel, Charlie, to point out how Bailey will miss singing.
You Don’t Know Me … Maybe Heaven Can Help, the 55th annual show presented by Northland Barbershop Chorus, is based on It’s a Wonderful Life, the 1946 Christmas classic starring Jimmy Stewart. Northland first used the Frank Capra directed film as a launching point in 2001 with Sing … For Heaven’s Sake. That script was penned by group music director Bob Shami and Stephen Patterson.
“I thought, ‘Oh, there’s a good show,’” Shami told The Sault Star in a recent interview. He was “looking for inspiration” reading through old scripts. Past shows include Dire Days at the Dairy, The Last Voyageur or All Fur Naught and Through the Years: Into the Barberhop Twilight Zone.
“Premise is the hard part,” said Shami. “Getting that one or two sentence thing of, ‘OK, what’s the show about? Who are the guys? Why are they there? What are they singing about and why?’”
But it’s only the story idea that’s back for You Don’t Know Me, presented Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Sault Community Theatre Centre.
“The premise was a neat one, a good opportunity for the kinds of shows that we do,” said Shami.
Bill Bailey (Mike Doherty) soon learns from Charlie (Chuck Holgate) that his decision to stop singing will have all kinds of ramifications on his life, including his relationship with Brenda (Penny Gribbon).
“There are unintended consequences,” said Shami.
You Don’t Know Me features 10 performances by about 32 chorus members including songs by The Platters (Only You), The Beach Boys (In My Room), The Carpenters (End of the World) and the musical Fiddler on the Roof (Sunrise, Sunset). The title song was performed by Ray Charles and Eddy Arnold.
Shami teamed up with Joe Johnson to arrange The End of the World and Three Bells. The chorus director did The Parting Glass and Sunrise, Sunset.
A guest choir from St. Paul Catholic School, made up of about 15 students from Grades 3 to 6, will perform.
Lee Ann Pearson directs the stage show.
Guest quartet is Shoptimus Prime.
Saturday’s show marks a six-figure charity milestone for Northland Barbershop Chorus. The group has donated $100,000, from partial annual show proceeds, to Sault Area Hospital’s speech pathology unit since 1995. The unit gets more than 910 new referrals annually.
Two leaders of Barbershop Harmony Society’s Pioneer District will attend. Dave Montera is president. Roger Boyer is director of community outreach.
Montera and Boyer will be joined by hospital brass including Sue Roger, senior director, clinical programs and all speech pathologists.
“We are hoping the next $100,000 doesn’t take so long,” said Shami.
The group’s donations help SAH buy communication aids, specialized diagnostic equipment and have funded education opportunities, said Sault Area Hospital Foundation executive director Teresa Martone in an e-mail to The Sault Star. Northland Barbershop Chorus also sings Christmas songs during an annual visit to the hospital’s medical unit and lobby.
“Fundraising is a reality every hospital in Ontario faces, and for Sault Area Hospital, the foundation is the sole source of funding for capital needs,” said Martone. “We are so grateful for the generosity of the barbershoppers, who continue to support local health-care needs.”
Northland Barbershop Chorus is recognized on SAHF’s Beacon of Hope Wall on the hospital’s second level. Recognition plaques are posted in outpatient and inpatient therapy rooms in the speech language pathology unit.
Shami describes the weeks leading up to his group’s annual concert as “exciting and nerve-wracking.
“It occupies a lot of our efforts and our thoughts throughout the year,” he said. “You always are concerned that you’ve done everything you can to prepare the guys and to look after all of the 1,000 details that go into putting on any kind of production. It’s nothing I ever take for granted like this is old hat. It isn’t.”
Shami is grateful for the fraternal spirit found in the chorus he joined in 1983.
“It really is a special thing,” he said. “We’re singing buddies, yes, but we’re connected to one another in a way that really is special … They’re the best people I know. It’s just an absolute privilege to stand up in front of these guys each year and see them pull together and achieve something together that none of us can do individually. It’s an awesome thing.”
General admission is $32. Tickets are on sale at Community Theatre Box Office at Station Mall or online at www.saultctc.ca
On Twitter: @Saultreporter