Fans mourning the death of one of Coronation Street's best loved characters can take comfort that a stage version of the TV soap is coming to New Zealand.
Actor William "Bill" Tarmey, 71, who played pigeon-fancier Jack Duckworth for more than 30 years, died while on holiday in Tenerife, Spain, on Friday.
The Duckworth character will live on when Weatherfield stalwart William Roache - better known as serial groom Ken Barlow - brings Coronation Street On Stage to New Zealand for a string of performances in March and April.
Roache, 80, is the sole surviving original cast member on screen and narrates the live shows, which celebrate 50 years of Britain's longest-running soap.
He told the Herald on Sunday yesterday he couldn't wait to make his first trip to New Zealand, but would miss his old friend and colleague.
"Bill was a TV legend and Jack Duckworth epitomised what Coronation Street is all about," Roache said.
Coronation Street On Stage has already been a hit in Britain. Performances are scheduled for theatres in Auckland, Wellington, Nelson and Christchurch.
The two-hour spectacular follows the fortunes of two of the soap's most famous families, the Barlows and the Platts.
It includes characters past and present including Ena Sharples, Hilda Ogden, Hayley and Roy Cropper and bottle-blonde barmaid Bet Lynch.
"I'm glad the play is travelling around because I want to see as much of New Zealand as I can," Roache said. "I'll hire a car and take it all in."
Roache said he was aware New Zealand episodes were running about 18 months behind the UK schedule.
"I must still look like a young thing to the Kiwi viewers," he joked.
"But in what other job would you have a jailbird wife, a murderess daughter and an alcoholic son to deal with? It sure keeps it interesting.
"I still love it. Even at 80, retirement is not an option."
Tickets for Coronation Street On Stage - priced from $59 (plus booking fee) - go on sale from the usual outlets at 9am on Tuesday, November 20.