Geez, I just can’t get away from writing about stuff that’s somehow connected to Star Trek, can I? Oh well. Maybe next time. On Sunday, February 26, I went with some friends to see William Shatner’s new one-man show, Shatner’s World (We Just Live in It…) at the Music Box Theater in New York City. And I’m glad I did.
In just a few weeks, William Shatner turns 81. He and my dad (and Leonard Nimoy, incidentally) were born days apart. And what I find most remarkable about Shatner is how much energy, enthusiasm, and drive he still has at this point in his life. He’s still sharp as a tack. The man walked out on stage and delivered a non-stop performance for an hour and 40 minutes and didn’t seem the slightest bit drained at the end. He’s truly an inspiration.
The show itself is an entertaining, sometimes touching journey through his life and career, with lots of anecdotes—some I’ve heard before, many undoubtedly enhanced or downright exaggerated for dramatic effect (or humorous effect, as the case may be)—but always interesting. He talks about his parents, his experiences growing up in Canada, and how he developed an interest in acting. His father had been expecting him to join the family business. When Shatner announced his intention to become an actor, his dad told him that he couldn’t afford to support him in that pursuit—but if young Bill ever changed his mind and decided to join his father at the clothing store, there would always be a place for him. I heard more than a few “awwwws” coming from people in the audience.
He used that story as an example of the importance of love, and the different forms it can take, making the point that you can kid around with people, mock them, argue with them, insult them, but still feel love for them. To help illustrate this, he showed a clip from the infamous Comedy Central TV special in which he was roasted, a clip in which his former co-star George Takei delivers upon Shatner a brutal—but undeniably hilarious—verbal barrage. Shatner freezes the clip and points out the expression of utter disdain and contempt on Takei’s face. “That’s not love,” Shatner declares with mock dismay. “That’s hate!”
Shatner spends quite a bit of time discussing a project that apparently meant a lot to him, a 1964 TV pilot in which he played Alexander the Great. As Alexander, he got to work extensively with horses—a lifelong passion of his.
He addresses Star Trek, of course, but I wouldn’t exactly call it the centerpiece of the show. Shatner describes it as being not much more than an opportunity for an ambitious actor in his 30s to star in a network TV show, one that ended after three years. Much to his surprise, that show somehow came back years later as a movie series and there he was, once again in the center seat. Shatner doesn’t gush over Star Trek with a lot of love and sentimentality, nor does he mock it and tell anyone to “get a life.” He does admit that for many years he was somewhat defensive about his association with the series, that he felt a certain degree of embarrassment about it, but he’s now finally at peace with the whole phenomenon, and it doesn’t bother him anymore that he’ll always be best known for playing Captain Kirk.
Then he devotes a segment to the role that stands a very good chance of actually eclipsing Kirk in the eyes of many fans: Denny Crane of Boston Legal, for which he received two Emmy awards.
Alas, T.J. Hooker doesn’t get equal time.
Shatner doesn’t shy away from some of the lowest low points in his life. There’s no mention of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, but he does discuss the death of his third wife and how he was able to recover from it and find love again in its aftermath.
William Shatner is well known for being bombastic, overblown, narcissistic, hammy, charming, funny, and silly. And all of that is on display in Shatner’s World.
Realistically speaking, there may not be too many more opportunities to see William Shatner live on stage—same reason I’m going to see the Beach Boys (with Brian Wilson!) in May. So for anyone who has an interest in the man, his work, and his life, this show is definitely recommended.
At the very least, you’ll get to see William Shatner in probably the one and only show he’s ever done where he’s absolutely, positively adored by the entire cast.
© All text copyright Glenn Greenberg, 2012.