It is sung by the sailors (e.g. Sven Larsen) because they all long for women in their lives. The song is broken up in the middle when the nurses run by, and Billis gives Nurse Nellie Forbush her laundry. The song also has a sung recitative between the verses and the Chorus.
A comic version of this song was performed in the 1977 Christmas edition of the BBC'sMorecambe and Wise Show, as well as being performed in another Morecambe and Wise Show — one of their shows featured Cliff Richard in the song. The parts of the sailors were all played by BBC newsreaders of the time with Peter Woods getting to sing the distinctive last line.