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Hope For Homer

Hope Clarke takes on The Odyssey in a semi-musical stage version by Derek Walcott. logo

Hope Clarke
Even given the abundance of staged and concert revivals of flop musicals in recent years, it may be awhile before anyone gets around to Home Sweet Homer, the howling dog that (briefly) starred Yul Brynner. But fans of that show (!!) may be intrigued by a new project that sounds like it could be somewhat similar, if far superior.

"This is not really considered a musical, but I think it's going to be called that," says Hope Clarke in reference to the Willow Cabin Theatre Company production of Derek Walcott's stage adaptation of The Odyssey, directed by Edward Berkeley and with musical staging by Clarke. "There are two big dance numbers and quite a bit of movement. And there is singing: Novella Nelson and Cornell Womack, the narrator, do most of that. But, basically, it's a play with music and musical staging."

The show is being presented in the Theatre at St. Clement's, 423 West 46th Street, and Clarke is happy with the venue. "We need a big space like this," she says. "You can't try to do The Odyssey in an intimate house." In addition to Nelson and Womack, the large cast includes John Bolger, Jim Butz, Michael Hunsaker, Caralyn Kozlowski, Liza Lapira, Chuck Patterson, Michael Pemberton, Andrew Polk, Linda Powell, Joanna Rhinehart, Adriana Sevan, Jed Sexton, Lou Sumrall, and Sullivan Walker.

Chuck Patterson, Novella Nelson,
and Linda Powell in The Odyssey
(Photo: Carol Rosegg)
Though Clarke is probably known primarily as a choreographer--most especially for her Tony-nominated work on Jelly's Last Jam--she began as a performer, appearing as a principal dancer with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and turning up in such Broadway shows as West Side Story ("a life-changing experience"), Hallelujah, Baby!, Purlie, and Grind. She has many credits as an opera director, including several productions of Porgy and Bess, and she also helmed the York Theater's concert revival of Hallelujah, Baby!. Clarke became involved in The Odyssey when she was approached by director Berkeley. Walcott's freewheeling adaptation----in which, according to a press release, "mythical Mediterranean meets contemporary Caribbean"--had previously been staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company in London in 1992.

According to Clarke, the show hews fairly close to its Homerian source material as filtered through Walcott's unique vision. "We visit all the famous places and characters," she says. "It's a long show but a very good one, and the cast is wonderful. They've had a lot of work to do, but everything seemed to come together. I'm proud of them."

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