Set against the backdrop of World War II the story unfolds on a French colonial island recently taken over by the Americans who are preparing to clear the surrounding islands of Japanese troops. Our hero, Emile de Becque, a French planter, falls in love with Nellie Forbush, an unsophisticated US nurse. While she returns his love she is upset to learn that he has two children from a relationship he had with a Polynesian woman, now dead.
We are introduced to the amusing characters of the ‘seabees’ – the American sailors of the Construction Battalion (hence the acronym), led by Billis. They are running a black market line in grass skirts and shrunken heads. The sailors are far removed from the front line and all the nurses on the island are spoken for – so they long to visit the island of Bali-Hai. Bali-Hai is strictly out of bounds. Their only contact with the island is through Bloody Mary, a Tonkinese woman who trades with them.
A new officer joins the company – Lieutenant Cable. Bloody Mary decides to introduce her daughter, Liat. Cable falls in love with Liat contrary to everything he has been brought up to believe in.
The sailors and nurses prepare for a show for Thanksgiving. Emile arrives to speak to Nellie but she is unwilling to listen. He and Cable leave on a dangerous mission that night. They are dropped on a Japanese held island to set up a reconaissance post. Nellie is devastated when she discovers that Emile is gone. The mission is a success but there is one casualty – Cable is killed in action. Emile returns safely and he and Nellie set up home together with their young family.
The score includes “Some Enchanted Evening”, “Bloody Mary”, “There Is Nothing Like A Dame”, “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair” and “Happy Talk”.