The characters and scenes of The Golden Apple draw inspiration from the Trojan Cycle. However, in Latouche's words, the musical is "no adaptation of Homeric grandeurs, but a comic reflection of classical influence on the way we think nowadays." The action is accordingly translated to the state of Washington at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Lovey Mars, Miss Minerva and Mrs. Juniper call Angel's Roost (population: 1,751; elevation: 7,200 feet; annual precipitation: 11.5) "the Greatest Little Town on Earth." To Helen, who views the town from the height of a ladder, it's a place where people are born, people die, but "nothing ever happens in Angel's Roost." But it turns out that something is happening: the soldiers from the Spanish-American War are returning home. The town holds a parade for the heroes, who are invited to a church social afterwards.
What the boys in blue were really missing in Angel's Roost, however, was the affections of Helen, who had offered herself freely in the past. The Boys are vexed to learn that she's already married, and are on the verge of killing her husband Menelaus when Ulysses intervenes and forces them to swear to protect her.
The church social is intruded upon twice by dramatic arrivals of uninvited guests: Paris, a dapper traveling salesman arriving from the city of Rhododendron by balloon, and the less warmly received Mother Hare, who enters with her usual thunder and lightning. Paris is called upon by Mrs. Juniper, Miss Minerva and Lovey Mars to decide which of the ladies should win the golden apple proffered by Mother Hare. Though the contest is supposed to be about their cakes and pies, Lovey Mars wins the prize by bribing Paris with Helen. Paris makes a proposition, and Helen sets sail for the city with him, waving goodbye to her wailing husband from the balloon. The old men of the town remind Ulysses and the Boys of their oath and convince them to stop their baseball game and go to war to avenge Helen's abduction. Ulysses has to break his earlier promise to stay home with his wife Penelope and bids her farewell as the Boys set off for Rhododendron.
In Rhododendron, the Boys are initially unsuccessful at tearing Helen away from her new admirers, but Ulysses hatches a plan which helps them throw the town into turmoil and defeat Paris. Helen goes back to Angel's Roost with Menelaus. However, Ulysses and the Boys stay behind, having been induced by Mayor Hector to go on a Big Spree. Ten years later, Ulysses heads back alone and reconciles with Penelope.
- Bantering Baddie Buddies: Scylla and Charybdis are reimagined as this, a pair of corrupt businessmen who banter with each other as they deceive the protagonists.
- Chronoscope: Mother Hare gives Ulysses and Penelope a glimpse of a verdant valley turned into future wasteland, and presents them with a kaleidoscopic vision, projected in the form of woodcuts and lithographs, of the spectacular scientific achievements forthcoming in the twentieth century.
- Gender Flip: Scylla and Charybdis, female monsters in the original myths, are reimagined as "Mr. Scylla" and "Mr. Charybdis".