Act I: The action takes place on an island in the south pacific during World War 2. Two children play on the terrace of a rich planter, Emile de Becque. Emile has fallen for the charms of Nellie Forbush, a young Navy nurse from Arkansas.

In spite of the dangers Nellie sings that she is “A cockeyed optimist” whilst Emile tells us about their first meeting through “Some enchanted evening”. The American sailors based on the island are bored and frustrated at the lack of combat and female company and inform us with “There is nothing like a dame”. It is believed that the Plantation Owners hid their women and children on Bali Ha’i a neighbouring island. Luther Billis, a self-appointed leader of the sailors hatches a plan to get over there. He will be assisted by Lieutenant Cable who has landed on the island to carry out a top secret spy mission. His arrival is noted by Bloody Mary, a matronly grass skirt seller who has plans for the newcomer.

Naive Nellie has second thoughts about Emile “I’m gonna wash that man right outta my hair”. However, shortly afterwards she bumps into Emile and decides she is still in love with him and tells us through “I’m in love with a wonderful guy”. Lt Cable talks to Emile about helping the war effort by getting access to a nearby Japanese held island. Emile refuses. Cable then allows Luther Billis to sweet talk him into taking a boat to Bali Ha’i where he is introduced to Liat, a young Tonkinese girl who is the daughter of Bloody Mary. Things move to a happy ending with Cable and Liat in love and Emile and Nellie becoming engaged. But....Nellie learns that Emile has two children from a native mother and becomes cold and distant because of her racial prejudice.

Act II: As the intensity of feelings increase for Liat, Lt Cable begins to display racial tensions of his own. He finally admits that he won’t marry a native girl. Bloody Mary drags her daughter away in a fit of anger to marry her off elsewhere. Both Nellie and Cable offer us an insight into their inner conflict and shame by telling us that they are conditioned to behave this way and are prisoners to their upbringing.

Emile, now depressed over Nellie’s rejection of him agrees to accompany Lt Cable on his dangerous mission. When the two men discuss racial tensions Cable lays it bare with “Carefully Taught”. The action moves to the Japanese island and we learn that the mission has been successful and that America’s war effort has benefitted greatly. We learn however that Lt Cable has been killed in action. Liat is grief stricken over the loss of her one true love and seeks kindred peace with Nellie. Nellie imagines that Emile has also perished and, ashamed at her prejudice, seeks to transfer her love from the father onto his two children. Emile makes a late entrance to surprise Nellie who is overjoyed and consents to marry.


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