It’s Karla’s 50th birthday and she’s just been dumped by her violin-playing boyfriend Brian. She’s just not musical enough.
Brian’s the first violin in the West Bendigo Chamber Orchestra. Karla’s the first triangle.
Hurt and lonely, Karla comforts herself with a gin and tonic, and then does what she always does when she needs to express her feelings; she writes a rhyme about it – an ode to Brian’s new girlfriend Kylie, who plays the cello.
Karla wonders how she will fill her lonely Sundays. She’s never been married, never had kids and never had a career. She works at Pack n’ Track with her friends Leonie and Julie between caring for her aged mum.
Perhaps she’ll go to church or synagogue? She romanticises about the Sabbath, with the whole family around the table – lighting the candles. She reads the book Mum gave her for her birthday, Helen Garner’s Everywhere I Look, and confesses that she’s been inspired by Garner’s love letter to the ukulele to buy one for herself. It even has her name on it – Kala. Meant to be!
With her new ukulele, Karla starts learning on YouTube, learning basic chords with Spruikin’ Uken Luke and strumming with Brett McLean. It’s so easy!
The eccentric Tiny Tom teaches her a one-chord song (Lime in the Coconut). But it’s old Uncle Scraggy who teaches her a song she can really relate to (Chain of Fools). Karla is on fire. She resolves to be a fool for Brian no more and to join a dating site.
A week later she joins the dating site Romance-R-Us. She is wary about scammers, but Spruikin’ Uken Luke reassures her that she will find the man of her dreams (Mr Sandman).
Weeks later, Karla is frustrated. She hasn’t had time to practice as Mum’s had a fall and broken her hip. She’s only had one bite from Romance-R-Us – dick pics from a bloke called Owen. To add insult to injury, her friend Julie is making fun of her passion for the ukulele.
Her new YouTube teacher Pierre Vert offers reassurance in the form of a cool riff, and she is buoyed when she gets a bite from a handsome widower called Wade. Not only does Wade play the ukulele; he has his own YouTube Channel – WhatWadePlayed!
Wade’s second wife Lydia died of ovarian cancer two years ago and he’s still grieving (I Still Miss Someone). He’s Australian, from Ballarat, but is in Sacramento, LA, helping Lydia’s Mum with some legal issues.
Karla is wary at first but when YouTube teacher Baba Bill reassures her, preaching free love and paid subscriptions, she decides to give Wade a chance. (It’s So Easy to Fall in Love).
After a whirlwind Skype and text romance, Wade wants to meet her. Karla fantasises about going to Sacramento to be with him, but Julie cautions her that he might be a scammer. (Step Back). Fearful, Karla blocks Wade. Things aren’t going well at work either. The doctors want her to come to Bendigo to discuss Mum’s Care Plan, but her boss won’t give her compassionate leave.
Weeks go by without another bite from Romance-R-Us. Karla is in a rut. She turns to YouTube teacher Luke for advice, who tells her it’s time to stop sitting alone in her room. She should join a club (Cabaret).
Excitedly, Karla joins the Newstead Ukulele Troupe, where she meets the charming Jeremy and Joel and makes loads of friends (Happy Together).
A month later, she’s thrilled to be invited to join the NUTS for their first gig – at the Maldon Nursing Home. But she fears she may not make it, as Mum has pneumonia. She is flattered when Jeremy sends her an invitation to play at a wedding and is convinced he likes her – until she discovers that the wedding is for Jeremy and Joel.
Lonely and depressed she checks Wade’s YouTube channel and is moved to find he’s dedicated a song to her (Do You Ever Think of Me). Inspired, Karla resolves to Skype Wade and to ask outright whether he’s a scammer. Wade reassures her that Julie is just jealous. But the call is cut off just as he starts to tell her his true feelings.
The next week Karla is with the NUTS at Jeremy and Joel’s wedding (Love Me Do) when her phone interrupts the celebrations. It’s Wade. He can’t stop thinking about her. He’s coming home. Does she want to meet him at the airport next week? For Karla there is only one answer: “I do!”
Dressed to kill and holding her carry-on luggage, Karla waits for the taxi to Melbourne airport to meet Wade. He’s booked a romantic weekend at the Langham. She’s convinced he’s going to propose (Maybe This Time.)
Her phone rings. It’s Wade. But the news isn’t good. He’s been mugged on the way to LA International Airport. His leg is broken, his face is smashed and his money and passport are gone. Convinced they are still destined to be together, Karla picks up her bags and rushes to the airport to fly to LA to rescue him (Count on Me).
A week later, Karla sits at home in her dressing gown listlessly playing her ukulele. Lydia the wife who died of ovarian cancer met her at LA International Airport. Wade didn’t have a broken leg, but he would soon. Not only that, he disappeared with the $10,000 Karla borrowed through Mum’s reverse mortgage to pay his hospital bills.
Karla posts a rhyme on Facebook warning other women about Wade, and decides to give up on love. Maybe she’ll be like a poet instead? She recites a rhyme about it and sings and plays sadly (If No One Ever Marries Me).
The good news is that Mum’s coming home. Karla has bought her a welcome-home present – a tiny ukulele. They can play together. But Karla now recognises that she also needs to make some friends and move on. She decides to rejoin the NUTS, but Jeremy and Joel are on an extended honeymoon in Hawaii, so NUTS are off the menu. Joel suggests she tries the GRUBS – the Guildford Regional Ukulele Band (GRUBS).
That night, Ruth and the GRUBS welcome Karla. They understand exactly what she’s been through with Brian and Wade (You’re No Good). Ruth invites her to join them to practise for the Deni uke muster, but when Karla turns up the following week, no one is there.
Karla practises while she waits and is stunned when Brian knocks on the door. Kylie’s left him and he’s desperate to join a uke club. There are no clubs for violin players.
Karla slams the door on him and triumphantly plays a reprise of If No One Ever Marries Me, unaware that a mysterious stranger has entered the room and is observing her.
The stranger introduces himself as Maestro. There is an instant mutual attraction. (Love is in the Air). They talk for two hours. Karla is giddy with excitement. As a test, she shows Maestro her rhymes.
The next day, Maestro enters excitedly with Karla’s rhymes and tells her they are not poems, but lyrics. She should write music for them! With Maestro’s help she writes her first song (The Kooky Ukey Song), thus discovering her true talent.
Karla’s happy-ever-after is in sight, until Maestro suddenly announces he has to go home to his family. She is devastated – and then relieved and thrilled when he explains that his family is his sister and her husband and that every Friday night they celebrate the Sabbath. The whole family around the table, lighting the candles – together.
Maestro invites Karla to join them, but she’s learned not to rush things. Maybe next time.
Maestro is torn. He decides he can afford to miss the Sabbath celebration just this once. He invites Karla to dance and together they dance into a brighter future. (Dance Me To the End of Love).
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