NEW talent has given a shot in the arm to the Barnstaple Amateur Operatic Society which has recruited a host of young members to take part in its upcoming production of Lionel Bart s Oliver! The society chose the popular musical after deciding to encourag

NEW talent has given a shot in the arm to the Barnstaple Amateur Operatic Society which has recruited a host of young members to take part in its upcoming production of Lionel Bart's Oliver!The society chose the popular musical after deciding to encourage more local youth to step into the spotlight.Taking the title role in the March production, will be 11-year-old Matthew Belcher. "He has the voice of an angel and is guaranteed to bring a tear when he sings Where is Love?" said BAOS publicity officer Heather Sales.No stranger to the public gaze, Matthew appeared dressed in a Santa suit on the front cover of the British Forces Cyprus newspaper - when he was just a year old. At five he joined a Swindon dance school and performed in various pieces at the Wyvern Theatre and the Old Town Park.In Barnstaple he has taken part in school and Scout shows with the highlight of his career to date being his solo as Mr Mistoffelees in last year's Gang Show.Indiana Bennett, 13, has landed the plum role of the Artful Dodger and, with his native London accent, is said to sound just like Jack Wild when singing Consider Yourself.Indiana joined Stagecoach in Mitcham when he was six and the Barnstaple branch when he moved to Devon at the age of nine.He has appeared in Stagecoach Live at Her Majesty's Theatre, London, and Joseph (and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) at the Queen's Theatre, Barnstaple.Leading lady is another young newcomer: Miranda Wyre who plays Nancy. Heather says her "earthy powerful voice" is ideal for As Long As He Needs Me and Oom Pah Pah.Miranda has been acting and singing for more than 10 years and has performed at theatres in Devon, Bath, Cambridge and at the 2004 Edinburgh Fringe. After university in Bath, she returned to Bideford and now works as a microbiologist in Braunton.Nancy's sidekick Bet is played by Si‰n Funning, 14, another new BAOS member - though her dad Mark has been singing with the company for several years.Si‰n has appeared in a number of local productions such as Thoroughly Modern Millie, Dick Whittington, Alice in Wonderland and Bugsy Malone.Oliver! is at the Queen's Theatre, Barnstaple, from Tuesday March 11 to Saturday March 15. For tickets call the theatre box office on (01271) 324242.