It’s the Fourth of July, 1936, and the small southwestern town of Three Point is experiencing a blistering heat wave (“Another Hot Day”). Lizzy Curry, a cheerful, fiercely intelligent thirty-ish spinster, regretfully accepts that no man outside her family has ever loved her or found her beautiful. But her rancher father, HC, and brothers urge her to pursue a romance with Sheriff File by dressing up and bringing a tasty lunch to the town picnic. Lizzy reluctantly agrees (“Love, Don’t Turn Away”).
Sheriff File is resistant to the Curry brothers’ plan (“Poker Polka”), and refuses to join “The Hungry Men” at the picnic. Lizzie, stung by File’s rejection, is heartbroken. Suddenly, a stranger named Bill Starbuck arrives in town, claiming he can bring an end to the town’s drought for a payment of $100 (“The Rain Song”). HC, intrigued by Starbuck’s charm, gives him the money. Lizzie, however, is scornful, and she and Starbuck butt heads (“You’re Not Foolin’ Me”). Lizzie playfully imagines herself living a different sort of life (“Raunchy”). File does show up at the picnic, and he shares some painful truths with Lizzie (“A Man and A Woman”). Her attempts at flirtation drive him away, though, and she’s left alone to contemplate her future as an “Old Maid.”
Evening sets upon the picnic (“Everything Beautiful Happens At Night”) and Lizzie is inexplicably drawn to the quiet of Starbuck’s camp. Alone with Lizzie, Starbuck urges her to dream beyond her small town (“Melisande”), but she defends her desire for “Simple Little Things.” Starbuck encourages Lizzie to see her own beauty, and the lights fade as they embrace.
Back at the picnic, Lizzie’s brother Jimmy boasts of his own romantic exploits (“Little Red Hat”). File enters, seeking a fugitive con man, whom he strongly suspects is Starbuck. HC, understanding that Lizzie needs to make a connection with a man, refuses to reveal their whereabouts. Meanwhile, Starbuck confesses to Lizzie that he’s never actually conjured any rain, and she privately wonders whether it’s best to live somewhere in between dreams and real life (“Is It Really Me?”)
Lizzie and Starbuck return to the picnic, and File makes a plea for Lizzie’s affections (“Wonderful Music”). Lizzie must make a choice, and with newfound self-assurance, she chooses a quiet life with Sheriff File. Starbuck drives off into the distance, and suddenly the heavens open, bathing the townspeople in glorious, nourishing rain (“Finale: The Rain Song”).