A production which offers double the fun rounds off what has been a fabulous season at Bolton Octagon.

Blonde Bombshells of 1943 is an unashamedly nostalgic, warm and hugely enjoyable evening.

This revival of Alan Plater’s musical comedy about an all-girl big band preparing for a live radio broadcast on the BBC in the depths of wartime is the perfect summer treat.

The Bolton News: Blonde Bombshells of 1943 (Picture: Pamela Raith)

It’s not a challenging production, but then it’s not meant to be. If you want angst and mayhem there are plenty of other productions around for that. Bombshells is a celebration of friendship, a celebration of strong women making the most of a world in turmoil and above all a celebration of the art of the actor musician.

This cast is excellent. You would willingly pay the ticket price just to see them perform as a Big Band such is the standard of the musicianship on display. Saxophone, trumpet, clarinet, drums, ukelele, piano - pick an instrument and this lot can play it. Then there’s the singing. Wonderful close harmonies which evoke memories of the Andrews Sister and the Big Band era.

When the acting matches the levels of musicianship, as it does in Blonde Bombshells of 1943, you know you are in for a good night.

The Bombshells are led by the indomitable Betty, beautifully played by Georgina Field. She needs some new recruits to the band for that night’s broadcast - the lure of American GIs has proved too much for previous band members to resist.

The Bolton News: Blonde Bombshells of 1943 (Picture: Pamela Raith)

One by one, the most unlikely replacements arrive for audition. Lauren Chinery’s splendidly naive schoolgirl; Gleanne Purcell-Brown’s hugely enthusiastic nun and the wonderful Stacey Ghent as Miranda, a frightfully posh army ‘gel’ who is just hilarious.

Then there’s Pat the drummer, who turns out to be Patrick, desperate to avoid being called up to do his duty. To play in the band he must dress up in blonde wig and red dress to fit in. Rory Gradon is great as the token male in the cast, often the hapless victim of the girl’s mischievous wit, who can belt out a song with the best of them.

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Completing this stellar line up are Verity Bajoria as May, the acerbic piano player who shoulders a great deal of the musical load for the production with aplomb; Alice McKenna as the bass playing Grace, cruelly robbed of her newly-wed husband in the first weeks of the war and Sarah Groarke as the world-weary Vera, trumpet player extraordinaire with a husband in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.

Grace and Vera also form a wisecracking double-act worthy of the music halls, offering up risque one-liners, usually at the expense of men - or Hull!

Director Zoe Waterman has brought together a remarkable team of performers and they have all been blessed by the writing of Alan Plater. Blonde Bombshells of 1943 is very northern in its humour; the women are all women that we recognise today.

They overcome difficult circumstances with humour, much of it self-deprecating; they show friendship by taking the mickey out of those close to them and a cutting one-liner is never far away.

Staged ‘in the round’ the cast often had to perform an intricate ballet as instruments were swapped and also as they carefully navigated a hole in the floor of the rehearsal room, the result of a recent German bombing raid.

The Bolton News: Blonde Bombshells of 1943 at the Octagon                                      (Picture: Pamela Raith)

Listen carefully and there are some serious points being made, but that’s not the real purpose of this play. That comes in the second half when the Blonde Bombshells arrive for their live radio broadcast and really let rip.

Sure, there are a few weak spots in the story and it does take a while to set the stage for the glittering final section but when the entertainment on offer overall is this good, who cares?

As the Big Band concert got the Octagon swinging, everyone was up from their seats and dancing along.

The spirit of Ivy Benson is very much present in Bolton!

Blonde Bombshells of 1943 is at the Octagon Theatre Bolton until Saturday, July 1. Details from www.octagonbolton.co.uk