I'VE never fancied a spell in jail and hopefully my visit to Yeadon Town Hall this week will be the closest I get. From my first sight of the open set with it's stark grey and black walls and the atmospheric sound effects I was transported into my vision of life behind bars. Yeadon Theatre Company have a wealth of strong, talented females and their production of Bad Girls – The Musical was the perfect way to show off their talents.

Based on the characters in the original ITV1 prison drama series which aired between 1999 and 2006, written by the original TV creators Maureen Chadwick and Ann McManus with music and lyrics by Kath Gotts it premiered at West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2006 before opening on the West End in 2007.

Set in fictional HMP Larkhall it's the story of new idealistic Wing Governor Helen Stewart (Lucy Evans) and her battles with the entrenched old guard Officer Jim Fenner (David Collins) and his sidekick Sylvia Hollamby (Julie Kettlewell), whilst also following the love story that develops between Helen and charismatic inmate cop murderer Nikki Wade (Heather Coulton). Other featured characters include murderer Shell Dockley (Alicia Roberts) and her runner arsonist Denny Blood (Charlotte Foss), shoplifting old-timer Noreen Biggs (Chistine Castle), the tarts with hearts The Two Julies (Jane Collins & Pat Poole), christian shoplifter (Holly Pennington), drug pusher Rachel Hicks (Emma Buckee), the ultimate Top Dog, hitman and the King-of-Gangland's missus, Yvonne Atkins (Amber Giles) and the good cop standing up for the girls Justin Mattison (Tim Ryan).

A tragic death on the wing, in which Jim Fenner is implicated, leads to an angry protest from the women and forces Helen and Nikki to their opposite sides of the bars. But when it's clear that Helen stands to lose her job over Fenner's misdeeds, the race is on for the women to nail him once and for all. A wonderfully anarchic bunch of women on the edge and up against the odds – prostitutes, addicts, shop-lifters, murderers. Crammed full of big songs and characters, it is an exhilarating mix of gritty reality, rebellious spirit, emotional honesty and irreverent humour, that touches hearts and kicks up a riot.

The production team of Anita Adams (Director/Choreographer) and Adam Boniface (Musical Director) have combined well to provide a really down to earth production, whilst providing some beautifully melodic songs. The extremely effective set designed by Anita has been brought to life by Andy and Tom Grace and their talented crew complimented by wonderful lighting provided by Tom Hughes. Sound balance between the band and singers has been a problem at Yeadon Town Hall in the past but this production was well balanced by Oli Trenouth so that the vocals were never overshadowed.

Stand out performances came from Heather Coulton and Lucy Evans playing on opposite sides of the bars but falling in love with each other, Dave Collins who is creepy, sinister and full of menace throughout and Emma Buckee as the vulnerable naive new girl. The ensemble provided outstanding support to the main cast with numerous background vignettes that whilst never overshadowing the main action filled the stage with a claustrophobic feeling that one would expect in jail.

All in all I really liked this production although I can't remember many shows that include riots, a hanging and songs about banging! But somehow these have been turned into a couple of hours of wonderful musical theatre that makes the inmates and prison staff, more than just cogs in the system and turns them into real people with real problems. The writing is very much in the female prisoner’s favour but despite their previous crimes I did get to like these girls.

In the end, Bad Girls - The Musical worked for me on many levels. The various storylines combined well, and along with some wonderful songs (including the hauntingly beautiful Freedom Road opening the second half, the heart wrenching Sorry, the sinister The Key and the hilarious The Future is Bright) all linked with an energetic and talented cast which made for a very enjoyable evening. Whilst I’m still not that keen on being locked up in jail, I have to say these Bad Girls made it well worth venturing out on a cold, wet and windy March evening.

Bad Girls runs until Saturday,March 16 at Yeadon Town Hall at 7:30pm nightly (6pm Saturday), tickets at £15.50 (£13.50 conc) are available for all performances either from the box office 0333 666 4466 or on line from www.ticketsource.co.uk/ytc. Be aware this show contains some adult material and may not therefore be suitable for children.

John Kitching