Britain’s best-loved sitcom isn’t an obvious contender for a stage musical. Sure, there was that wheezing, raggedy stadium sing-a-long of a theme tune (na-na-na-na-na, na-na-na-na-na), but the knockabout lives of the Trotter family, pedalling their wares around Peckham, doesn’t immediately scream out for an 11 o’clock number.
No bother. Adapted by comedian Paul Whitehouse, of Fast Show fame, and Jim Sullivan, son of the television’s show’s legendary originator John Sullivan, Only Fools and Horses: the Musical has proved a crowd-pleaser in the heart of the West End.
It might be little more than a chance to re-acquaint oneself with three of the most classic characters in sitcom history and a string of fan favourites lovingly reprised, by as Del Boy and Rodney always suspected, the only thing that matters is that it shifts sales. This time next year, they might all be millionaires. Within a month of opening, the show announced an extension. Cushty.
It’s still set in 1980s Peckham and the Trotter brothers are still on the make. Del Boy’s got another hare-brained money-making scheme and he’s dragging Rodney along for the ride and, with Whitehouse himself recreating the role of Grandad (originally played to gruff, discombobulated perfection by Lennard Pearce), the musical wrings the best out of the bunch. Around them, the whole larger-than-life gang translate well to the stage: the doltish Trigger, the dodgy Mickey Pearce and the snobbishly, gauche Boycie and Marlene.
Tucked into this proper knees-up of a knock-off, there are hints of old music hall traditions – vaudevillians sending gags out with a ba-doom-tish, a lick of slapstick, not to mention a rousing round of the old cockney standard ‘Any Old Irons.’ Muiscally, however, it’s John Sullivan’s own sitcom standard – once voted the greatest ever theme tune on television – that steals the show. Not once, but twice over. Luvvly jubbly.