Based on two true-life stories, Rice Harvest – the musical is a love story in a war zone. It follows the escape and rescue of Vietnamese refugees by an unlikely hero – Bill, the diving captain of an oil rig prospecting in the South China Sea.

Chien and Linh are teenage sweethearts in a small village school. Linh lives with her disapproving mother, a devout Christian. Despite being a war orphan, Chien maintains his fun-loving attitude and lives with his grandfather, a natural peacemaker. Chien’s elder brother Yen is working on the oil rig and learning about the use of explosives from Bill.

The tranquil domesticity of village life is destroyed when soldiers attack the school during choir practice. The children and other villagers escape by boat but Chien’s grandfather and Linh’s mother are killed in the chaos. The young couple are forced to grow up very quickly. 

On the rig there is discord. When the sinking refugee boat comes alongside during a storm, Mal, a crew member, refuses to help. An argument ensues but Bill jumps into the water with Yen and the other divers to pull the refugees to safety.

Once on board, Mal attempts to seduce Linh but Chien defends her. Piqued, Mal reports the  refugees’ arrival to the company boss, who then informs the North Vietnamese authorities. When a gunboat arrives and unloads  ‘medical supplies’ Bill becomes suspicious and locks the refugees in the hold for their own safety.

The standoff between Bill and the gunboat captain is witnessed by Yen, who releases Chien from the hold. Together they take explosives from the store. Mal tries to stop them but they overpower him. When threatened with explosives the captain backs down.

Bill calls the oil company, who agree to send another boat so that the refugees can continue their journey. Unfortunately, this boat too comes perilously close to sinking and they are rescued again, this time by a British ship bound for England. 

Safe at last, the school choir joyously reconvenes when they are invited to sing in a London recording studio.