IT'S every drama student's dream.

To leave college and immediately get your first job touring the country performing in some of the most beautiful places the UK has to offer.

But Elmstead Market actor and musician Rob Gathercole has gone one better because not only has he scooped a part on a new production of the Wizard of Oz, he's also written the music for it.

"You have the talk," he begins, "you know, that it's a tough business and don't expect to get a job straight out of drama school and I really was expecting to spend the next few years going to endless rounds of auditions.

"So it was a little weird, expecting one thing and then ending up getting this job, especially as I finished college on the Saturday and started the rehearsals on the Wednesday."

The tour is being run by Immersion Theatre, which was established in 2010 by theatre producers James Tobias and Rochelle Parry.

With a fast developing reputation as a producer of top quality drama and family theatre, Rob met James when they both got jobs with Cambridge Touring Theatre Company last year.

"I was playing piano as part of their tour," Rob adds, "and I just got talking with James one day about the work I had done previously back in Colchester, one of which was my musical Downfall of the School.

"He was interested and so I gave him a CD of the concert recording we did to listen to and it kind of just went from there.

"We started a few months ago with James writing the lyrics and me writing the music, and it was while we were doing that James put up the casting call for the show itself and I wondered whether there might be a part in the show for me.

"Obviously I auditioned like everyone else but it certainly helped that I knew the songs already."

The 28-date tour starts next month and will take the troupe all over the country to such picturesque venues as Blenheim Palace and Leeds Castle.

Rob will even get the chance to perform in front of a hometown audience not once but twice, first at St Mary's School in Colchester on July 8 from 5pm and then again at Marks Hall just outside of Coggeshall on August 14, again at 5pm.

"I cannot wait," Rob tells me, "this is my first professional paid gig and I get to travel all over the place performing in these amazing places with the cast singing my songs. It's a proper dream."

Based on the original book rather than the Hollywood film, appearing alongside Rob will be Rachel Stratton will play Dorothy, having previously starred in international tours of Shrek the Musical as well as the West End production of Rainbow Magic Live. and Matthew Forbes who plays the Scarecrow, straight from his role as associate director of puppetry and movement on the National Theatre’s worldwide smash hit War Horse.

Of course none of this success will be of any surprise to the people who have known Rob since he first started out in theatre at the age of ten.

He says: "My very first role was as a rat in Dick Whittington for KATS at the Lakeside Theatre at Essex University and my first part with the Colchester Operatic Society was with the main group in Fiddler on the Roof, where I was a little boy."

But it was with the society's junior edition Rob really made his name locally picking up major roles in Oklahoma and Guys and Dolls.

"Guys and Dolls was one of my favourite parts," he reveals, "and actually when I got my place at drama school I was in the middle of rehearsals for West Side Story with CO2."

In fact 2013 was an extra specially busy year with Rob putting on his own musical The Downfall of the School in Colchester during the summer before going up to the Edinburgh Festival with Mad Hatter for their production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

"It's funny thinking about that time now," he says, "because if it wasn't for Downfall I probably wouldn't have got this job.

"Having been in lots of musicals myself I really wanted to write my own and although it was a lot of hard work, it has certainly reaped me the rewards now.

"After this tour I will be just like every other actor looking for a job but I am working with James again on another show based on Alice in Wonderland and I would like to write another original piece at some stage but I'm not sure yet what that might be."

The Wizard of Oz takes place at St Mary’s School, Colchester, on July 8 and then at Marks Hall, Coggeshall, on August 14.

For St Mary's tickets call 01206 211242 and for Marks Hall call 01376 563796.

For more information go to the theatre company's website at

The Wizard of Oz - The book, not the film.

Written by L Frank Baum as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the original American children's novel released in 1900 contains many of the storylines picked up by the 1939 film for which it is most famous for.

But it also has so much more.

For a start when it comes to meeting the great Wizard of Oz in the Emerald City, Dorothy sees the Wizard as a giant head on a marble throne, the Scarecrow as a lovely lady in silk gauze, the Tin Woodman as a terrible beast, and the Cowardly Lion as a ball of fire.

And when they go to battle The Wicked Witch of the West the witch first sends a pack of wolves to tear them to pieces, which the Tin Woodman kills with his axe. She then sends wild crows to peck their eyes out, but the Scarecrow kills them by breaking their necks and finally she summons a swarm of black bees to sting them, but they are killed trying to sting the Tin Woodman while the Scarecrow's straw hides the other three.

There's also a different ending as all three, as well as the Wicked Witch's Winged Monkeys, help Dorothy make her way home, by killing a giant spider, crossing a huge mountain and finally taking her to Glinda the Good Witch who of course tells her to tap her slippers three times.

Except in the book they're silver - not ruby!