Scenes 1-5: The first day of the school year begins, as always, with the singing of “The Alma Mater” by the school’s two a cappella groups: the world famous, all male, Acafellas and their perennially overshadowed classmates, the all female, Ladies in Red.
Applauding them as he addresses the assembly, Dr. Mergh, the high school psychologist, cautions that while he feels the community should recognize the tremendous accomplishments of these champion boy singers – and that “the girls try hard too, of course” – he is concerned about the pressure of tight harmony singing and worries that a cappella is a cult that this year will finally be “claiming its victims”.
The Acafellas (Philip, Lassiter, Jasper, and JB) sing “Get Ready” to demonstrate to all the auditioning freshmen exactly how it’s done. In the audience, Simon Depardieu is fighting nervousness since he’s a bit of a late bloomer, even for a freshman. His nerves only get worse when he hears that Lassiter, the Acafellas’ pitch, is looking for a talented musician who knows how to blend, JB is hoping for a cool dude, and Philip wants a guy who won’t screw up their championship vibe. Simon knows he doesn’t exactly check those boxes. He gives a powerful but highly unorthodox audition with “Greensleeves”.
Meanwhile, The Ladies in Red (Melody, Meghan, Mickey, Valerie, and their student manager Kerri) are already in crisis. Valerie apologizes for abandoning the group at Nationals last year by locking herself in the janitor’s closet so she wouldn’t have to be looked at, and promises she’ll be there this year. Meghan challenges Melody’s decision to keep singing the same old songs, especially “My Life Flows On In Endless Song, How Can I Keep From Singing”. Melody co-opts the insubordination, for now, by making Meghan their new soloist, and changing the name of the group to Lady Treble.
On Tap Day, the Acafellas arrive to induct Simon into the group, only he’s confused by their song, “Mony Mony”. But as the Acafellas’ singing progresses, he understands and then joyfully joins in. The group is complete.
However, the plans for both groups are thrown awry when they learn that this year Nationals will be held at their high school and will be televised live on MTV 3!
Scenes 5-10: Meghan and Mickey decide that MTV 3 necessitates new choreography and demonstrate “What I Like About You”, but Melody worries that it’s perhaps a little “loose” and she performs a more ladylike version.
Lassister worries that the announcement “is a setback. All anyone can think about is what color cummerbunds we should wear when we hoist the trophy on MTV 3”. He resolves to teach the guys to stop focusing on winning and start focusing on musical truth. He teaches the group a new song, “Back On The Chain Gang”, and wants them to “forget about the words. Just sing your from inside; what you’d say if you were on a chain gang”. But the Acafellas are resistant to his methods. A standoff ensues that is only resolved when Philip admits that the guys are nervous that they’ll embarrass themselves. Lassiter promises that the Acafellas will win Nationals and Philip promises that the group will follow Lassiter.
On a quiet corner on campus, Meghan tries to help Valerie learn to be looked at. Valerie suggests that Meghan date Jasper but Meghan objects vehemently saying “No, he’s Melody’s boyfriend. We can’t even talk about talking about that”. She then suggests that Valerie and Simon could get together and practice their perfect pitch.
Scenes 11-16: At the Christmas Concert the Acafellas suffer a humiliatingly disastrous performance, and so the boys vote to abandon Lassiter’s new method. In a huff, Lassiter relinquishes the pitchpipe, stunning the group and walking away from his best friend, Philip.
The girls sounded great behind their new soloist, Meghan. They are all delighted that Melody’s new plan is working, only she casually mentions that Meghan has some room for improvement – specifically, her dancing is a distraction. Determined to do better, Meghan tries to practice singing without dancing with “My Life Flows On In Endless Song”, but it’s no use; she sounds better when she moves. Frustrated, she cheers herself up by singing her favorite song, “Do You Love Me (Now That I Can Dance)”. Walking past the room, Jasper overhears and joins her. Initially startled, Meghan sings back and they duet – until Melody overhears and catches them. She grabs Jaspers hand, insults Meghan and leaves her alone to ponder what she’s done.
A month later, the Acafellas are trying to adjust to life without Lassiter. JB has convinced them to let him sing a solo, “Easy”, only JB has turned it into a star turn slow jam. Watching JB sing, Kiki Tune, an unscrupulous talent agent, convinces JB to quit school and become a professional a cappella superstar. And so the Acafellas are forced to soldier on with only three singers. They try to sing “I Think We’re Alone Now”, but it’s no use – Philip can’t hit the high notes and lashes out when Simon suggests they invite Lassiter to return.
Scenes 17-18: Lassiter tries his hand at composing but can’t find inspiration. Philip continues to practice his new part by himself. Simon, having just lost his idol JB, sings the duet they learned in happier times, “I Think I Love You”. As he sings, his voice drifts through the vents to Lassiter in the library and Philip in the music room. Hypnotically they join in and all three trio on the song.
Still unable to sing high enough and with only a week left before Regionals, Philip visits the legendary voice whisperer, Toby McClintoch. She explains that his problem is not singing high enough, it is singing “inside enough”. Philip is baffled until she counsels that nothing can cure his voice in a week, as “only two things work instantly in this world: love and drugs”.
Scenes 19-20: At Regionals Philip announces to the audience that the three remaining Acafellas are about to perform an arrangement normally sung by five voices. They sing “I Think We’re Alone Now” and nail all five parts!
Backstage, Meghan tries to apologize to Melody and explain that nothing happened with Jasper. Melody cuts her off and says that she would never let personal feelings interfere with Lady Treble. But when the girls go out on stage to perform and Meghan steps forward for her solo, Melody steals the spotlight and start singing the solo instead. The two battle for control in “Goodbye to You”.
Scenes 21-25: Regionals is over and the Acafellas have won first place. Again. But when the Acafellas’ collective urine sample tests positives for banned substances, the boys are forced to hand over their winning trophy to Lady Treble. Philip blames Simon and is about to kick him out of the group when JB returns. JB dismisses the drug test results saying, “false positives happen all the time” and announces that he left the professional a cappella world because he knew his friends were hurting and needed him to help get the group back together. He, Jasper and Simon force Lassiter and Philip to finally confront each other and tell each other how they truly feel.
Later that afternoon, Valerie confides to Simon how nervous she is about being looked at by the audiences at Nationals and on MTV 3. Simon suggests she find something that covers her, like a wet suit.
Nationals: The Acafellas strut on stage singing The Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back”. They sound fantastic, but Philip stops the song and confesses publicly that he is actually the reason that the boys failed their drug test at Regionals; he used his stepmother’s home botox kit to help him hit the high notes. He apologizes to Lassiter, Simon and all the guys and walks off stage saying they can still win without him. Just as he is about to exit the auditorium, Simon calls out to him and begins singing “I Want You Back”. Going into the audience, Simon brings Philip back to the group and the boys insist he sing with them. Acknowledging finally that “it’s not about winning”, Philip jumps back on stage and joins them. Now complete, the Acafellas sound amazing.
Meanwhile backstage, Valerie has disappeared again despite her promises. In a panic, Melody insists that their student manager Kerri sing Valerie’s part, commanding her to “not let this be a disaster”. As the applause for the boys dies down, Lady Treble enters the stage and they sing their old standby, “My Life Flows On In Endless Song, How Can I Keep from Singing”. Valerie finally enters, unusually, and something goes terribly awry, knocking down all the girls except Kerri. She is terrified, but refuses to let it be a disaster, and slowly starts singing. Gathering strength with every note, she unleashes a powerful and passionate voice that blows the roof off! Moved by the force of Kerri’s performance, the girls of Lady Treble get up and join her, and they have never sounded better.
Finale: As the two groups recover from performances at Nationals that were nothing like they expected, Valerie and Simon compose a new arrangement to commemorate the year, a song about joy – the joy of being in the sound. The two groups join to sing Pat Benatar’s “We Belong” and everyone takes a solo line. ‘For worse or for better, they belong, they belong together.’