Paul Whitehouse has dedicated the first performance of the Only Fools And Horses musical since the pandemic closed theatres to the late John Challis.
Whitehouse, who plays Grandad in the West End stage version of the beloved sitcom, said he hoped the cast could pay a “fitting tribute” to the actor.
Challis, best-known for his portrayal of unscrupulous second-hand car dealer Boycie, died in September from cancer at the age of 79.
Appearing on Good Morning Britain, Whitehouse said: “It is very poignant because John Challis very sadly passed away recently. We are going to dedicate tonight’s performance to John.
“He was a great supporter of the show. He had been fantastic and what a sad loss.
“I know everyone said this, but he is a genuinely lovely guy and we all miss him. We hope we can pay a fitting tribute.”
Only Fools And Horses The Musical reopens at London’s Theatre Royal Haymarket on Friday after closing 18 months ago due to the onset of the pandemic.
Whitehouse returns as Grandad, alongside Tom Bennett as Del Boy and Ryan Hutton as Rodney.
The reopening forms part of this year’s 40th anniversary celebrations of the BBC sitcom, which ran from 1981 to 2003.
The musical features elements from the whole series and took five years to complete, and has an original score including contributions from the late Chas Hodges.
Whitehouse said in a statement: “I’m over the moon because, finally, the West End is coming back to life and Only Fools And Horses The Musical will return to the Theatre Royal Haymarket this October.
“The last year or so has been very difficult for a lot of people, so I know I speak for the whole cast when I say that we genuinely cannot wait to get back on stage in front of a live audience – we’ve missed it so much. Roll on 1st October, we can’t wait to see you. Mange tout!”
Challis was born in Bristol but moved to south-east London when he was one.
He played Terrance Aubrey Boyce in Only Fools And Horses from 1981 to 2003, as well as in Boycie-focused spin-off show The Green Green Grass.