There is a theme to William Shatner’s one-man Broadway show (now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write), and it comes near the end of the 90-minute Shatner’s World: We Just Live in It….
The 81-year-old stage-actor-turned-Captain Kirk-turned-willing-caricature-of-himself mixes spoof and sentiment in his tales, in an almost stream-of-consciousness ramble-ness (with three Teleprompters to keep spontaneity in check).
After a recap of his “singing” career, which he’s anything but apologetic about, Shatner tells the audience that it’s much more difficult to say yes than it is to say no. It’s a terrific moment, one he’s also been leading up to all of his life. Shatner’s charm is in his willingness to take chances and to fail, and to find humor in the cosmos surrounding the ride.
If there are weaknesses in Shatner’s World, all is forgiven in his unabashed chutzpah.
The comfortable, slick set by Edward Pierce affords Shatner the necessary Star Trek anecdotes and tales (a planetary orb that also serves as a projector screen is propped behind him), and he’s game for the chuckles. Former rival George Takei jokes are tossed out, mixed with his gradual acceptance of eternal fame as Captain Kirk’s alter-ego. Trekkie love notwithstanding, Shatner’s World is about William, first, and he moves from childhood in Canada to replacing Christopher Plummer onstage to Star Trek to movie fame to depression to Boston Legal and beyond. He’s a gifted storyteller, and much of what you hear sounds like tales from that hysterical guy who’s the bombastic hit of the dinner party.
Director Scott Faris doesn’t lead the show so much as he guides Shatner through it, letting the actor sit and stand and bellow and brag. Some of the stories are quite funny (after he tells his mother he’s playing a Jewish husband onstage, she replies “Tell them you want a speaking part!”), and some peter out. (His horses may be the love of his life, but they’re not particularly intriguing subjects.) Shatner also muses on death, seriously, and throws in lots of smart clips from interviews and other honorary speaking engagements; a bit on George Lucas is quite entertaining.
Shatner doesn’t dance and he doesn’t really sing. He’s no Hugh Jackman or Elaine Stritch, and he doesn’t carry the wit of Carrie Fisher or Kathy Griffin. This show could have been a disaster along the lines of Charlie Sheen’s misadventures in theater. Luckily for Broadway theater-goers, Shatner’s not a train wreck or a reality TV show gone haywire. What he brings to the audience is his love of adventure. The only thing William Shatner is saying no to is riding off into the galaxy sunset.
For more information, visit Ticketmaster. Shatner’s World runs through March 4, then embarks on a World Tour. Top Photo: Joan Marcus.
Reviewing the Audience: Toussaint Takes on the Crowd: The Music Box Theatre, Opening Night, 8 p.m.
Opening night does wonders for theater patrons. They were polite and affable and courteous to one another and the star. Oddly, the biggest problem was the lack of ushers–I saw nary a one as I found my own seat and program. Maybe they were chatting up the celebs who showed up or having trouble with triflings. But beam them into the aisles next time…