Following hot on the heels of a cash boost from Gloucestershire Environmental Trust comes news of a grant of £50,000 from Cory Environmental Trust in Britain towards rebuilding of Stroud's Cotswold Playhouse.

Amidst Dickensian twists and turns in the building project, it seems that the story will have an ending worthy of celebration; a fully refurbished theatre which will host touring productions and a diverse range of arts activities.

Spirits were high as the cast of Oliver! began rehearsing some of the musical numbers for their next production which will take place in late Spring this year.

Fourteen year old James Gardner, a pupil at Marling School was ecstatic when he heard that he had landed the lead role of Oliver Twist. James, who now has a very good excuse for singing around the house at full volume promises that his portrayal of the starving orphan will reveal the feistiness of the character, driven by his sorrow for his mother and anger at his fate in the hands of Dickens' cruel and selfish adults who are paid to take care of him.

Many teenage boys will have enjoyed playing the role of the Artful Dodger and performing arts student Sam Townsend is delighted to be given the chance to play the part before, he hopes, taking up a career in musical theatre.

Newcomer Kelly Rieger has been singing, dancing and acting all her life and can add All England National Dance Champion to her list of accomplishments. After drama school, Kelly began singing lead vocals with local band, The Essentials. Director Judy Couch explained, "Kelly has a fantastic alto mezzo voice and all the right qualities to take on the role of Nancy. We're thrilled to have her in the cast."

In between waiting to hear whether he has been successful in his audition for the TV show, "Britain's Got Talent" and a call that will change his life from his casting agent, James Blofield continues to sing professionally and appear on national TV. James couldn't resist the chance to return to the Cotswold Playhouse to play the Beadle of the Workhouse, Mr Bumble. It also means that he won't be disappearing to entertain cruise ship passengers, but will take up first time father duties at home.

The role of Fagin, popularised in the London stage production and in the 1968 film by Ron Moody, will be played by Chris Robinson. Although Chris has been acting for 25 years, this is his first major singing role. He admits to being slightly apprehensive, but is looking forward to playing the role of villain after a long spell playing thoroughly nice characters.