FROM the opening bars of Wake Up Boo, this year's Right Angle Theatre Company panto was yet another rip-roaring success.

But director Derek Calder may want to rethink his casting after emotion and romance stole the show.

Yes, Alan Frayn's gags were good - particularly 'bathers going through the motions' and winning 'the No-Belle Prize' - the capers and costumes were crazy, and the fun-filled score was sensational.

But the true highlights of this adorable show were the tearjerkers and the heart-breaking performances of Aimee Richardson, as Belle, and Sam Johnston, as Prince Danton.

The Right Angle Theatre Company has uncovered a couple of crackers with these two.

Their dueted version of Calum Scott's You're the Reason was breathtaking.

Johnston had already made an impact with his remarkably good take on I'm On My Way, and Richardson had shone throughout the early scenes, but once together it was veneration rather than laughter that resounded around the Volunteer Hall.

Steve Hartley-Oliver didn't help either with his accomplished performance as the tormented Beast.

And, while slightly more limited in his vocal range than the two leads, his performance of Lewis Capaldi's Someone You Loved had most reaching for the tissues.

But Beauty and the Beast is much, much more than a weep-fest.

Tracy Borthwick and Emma Wilson were a hoot as Belle's sisters, Whitney and Britney.

From their fainting fits at the sight of Gustave to their obsession with treatments, laughs were never far away.

And the dynamic duo of Stuart Mitchell and Amanda Blacklock as the Brawest beauticians in Galae, Marcell and Monique, had the hall in uproar for much of the night.

Clad in Olivia Newtown-John-esque 'Let's Get Physical' clobber from the 80s, Blacklock and Mitchell stole many a scene.

And their accents - Mitchell's pure Galae and Blacklock's Essex - worked a treat.

Craig Douglas's De Niro-sounding Gustave also had his fair share of one-liners in his attempts to deflect the unwanted attentions of Whitney and Britney.

And both Julie Smith, as Madame Le Fou, and Scott Robertson, as Alphonse, were a delight with their over-the-top performances.

A panto, though, isn't a panto without a dame.

The Right Angle Theatre Company appears to have a natural - Jodie Millar as Madame Fifi was yet again a sensation.

From wild wigs and fervently festive costumes to hilariously adapted versions of Ghostbusters and Chansom D'amour, Millar made the stage his own.

And he was ably supported by Billy Rooney as Fifi's son, Jacques.

Having tumbled straight from the set of children's show Rainbow, Rooney has a natural ability for slapstick.

Rachel Falconer provided the good side of panto from the sidelines as the fairy Flora, while hitting back with her own couplets was Amy Welsh as the sinister Belladonna.

Welsh, with her scarlet dress and green-lighting, was remarkably good as the villain.

All good shows, though, rely on the music and Calder's song choice was spot-on.

From the Boo Radleys and Abba to Elton John and Queen, Beauty and the Beast was a foot-tapping, sing-alonging great night out.

While the hits rolled, traditional favourites weren't forgotten.

The wonderful cast of children were delightful with their environmentally aware Country Gardens and Ugly Bugs Ball, and they made sure Coulter wasn't forgotten with a lovely version of Ally Bally Bee.

Stuart Mitchell and Julie Smith should take an additional bow for the choreography.

And the dancers and chorus were in fine form throughout the show with every big number being turned into a visual treat.

As has become the custom with the Right Angle Theatre Company's annual panto, the loudest cheers of the night were saved for the Braw Lad and Lass as well as Santa Claus.

While the mood wasn't always merry, Beauty and the Beast provided the opportunity for this talented company to showcase what they can do - and oh, how they took it.


Flora - Rachel Falconer

Belladonna - Amy Welsh

Belle - Aimee Richardson

Whitney - Tracy Borthwick

Britney - Emma Wilson

Marcel - Stuart Mitchell

Monique - Amanda Blacklock

Gustave - Craig Douglas

Madame Fifi - Jodie Miller

Jacques - Billy Rooney

Alphonse - Scott Robertson

Prince Danton - Sam Johnston

Beast - Steve Hartley-Oliver

Madame Le Fou - Julie Smith

Dancers - Callum Crooks, Ellie McLaren, Millie Robinson, Molly Turnbull, Paige West, Katie Wilson & Sara Young.

Chorus - Ruairidh Anderson, Ellie Bryson Welsh, Abigail Burns, Ellie cockburn, Grace Decoteau, Rhianna Devlin, Georgie Everett, Erin Gallagher, Faith Heriot, Nicole Hughes, Skye Hume, Lucy Johnstone, Leanne Robinson, Ashleigh Thomson & Ally Turnbull.

Children - Simona Andom, Sophia Blaen, Jamie Brown, Emilee Jackson, Darcie Liddle, Ceijay Robinson, Fraser Scott, Carrie Smith, Isla Train, Ainslie Forsyth, Kayla Gibb, Emily Johnstone, Skye Machara Henderson, Kaitlyn Martin, Maizy Moody, Rebecca Scott & Max Turnbull.