It’s not often, in these straitened times, that the audience at Eden Court is so entertained as to give standing ovations. But that’s what’s happening this week. In its production of Made in Dagenham, Inverness Musical Theatre Company has triumphed. The musical by David Arnold, Richard Thomas, and Richard Bea tells of the 1968 sewing machinists’ strike at Ford’s Dagenham car plant. This neglected story, which saw a group of women challenge their pay and the tag ‘unskilled workers’, paved the way for 1970’s Equal Pay Act.

Musical theatre history is full of cracking examples of real stories reaching new audiences and penetrating the popular mind when given powerful musical treatment – just think The Sound of Music, Les Misérables, Rent... Similarly, Made in Dagenham doesn’t just tell audiences how Ford’s launch of its iconic Cortina Mark 2 was delayed. Rather, it captures a seminal moment in the history of equal rights, its feisty theme of female solidarity uplifting throughout.

Director Tierney McLeod, musical director Fiona Stuart, choreographer Ruth Foster, and costumer Marian Armstrong – along with the rest of their team – have created a brilliant theatrical experience. Amid strife in the factory, Rita O’Grady has to deal with thoughtless husband Eddie. These interwoven strands – personal drama and societal gender discrimination – are captivating. Rita’s growth from wife, mother, and worker to full-on political activist is an inspiring one, for which Alison Ożóg’s dynamic stage personality and strong voice are perfectly suited. Matthias Kremer as Eddie conveys well both the hapless Millwall supporter and contrite husband. His rendition of the pleading The Letter is a highlight.

Indeed, these two standouts aren’t alone: several performances are absolutely on point. Among the disgruntled women, Sandra (Zoe Kinnear McIntyre) and the plain-speaking Beryl (Nicola Gray) are funny, sharp, and charismatic. Government Minister Barbara Castle, later architect of Labour’s Equal Pay Act, is well evoked by Margo Fraser. The sub-plot of mutual affection between Union activists Connie (Morna Eadie) and Monty (Scott Crichton) is also nicely done. While acting is uneven across the minor parts, and some downright stereotypes weaken matters, overall the show is a success.

It’s a relatable show, with moments of pathos always drowned out by surges of positivity and the theme of resilience against the odds. Where Made in Dagenham scores most, though, is in the vibrancy of the ensemble numbers, where the company excels, supported by a first-rate orchestra. Musical moods, like the stunningly effective costumes and hairstyles (mini-skirts, fringes, and beehives abound), are perfect for the setting. Girl-group styles, Motown, and inflections of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons are stirring, especially when descant, harmony, and counterpoint enrich the textures. In an evening of good musicality, the vibrancy of Pay Day, Everybody Out and Viva Eastbourne is irresistible. How good it is to enjoy a well-choreographed, musically harmonious and confident ensemble performance!

At the end of the day, it’s all about Rita, the women, and their story of fighting against the odds. Great chorus lines like ‘Don’t let the bastards grind you down’, or the mantra ‘Nothing changes unless it’s challenged’ take up residence in the brain. And when Rita leads the company marvellously in the finale Stand Up, we’re ready to do just that.