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To quote a famous Star Trek catchphrase, resistance is futile to William Shatner’s one-person show, Shatner’s World: We Just Live in It. The octogenarian actor—here making his first Broadway appearance in a half-century–is such an engagingly hammy and funny raconteur that only the most curmudgeonly will begrudge him this celebration of his life and career.
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That’s not to say that being a fan isn’t a prerequisite for fully enjoying this breezy 100-minute evening that features anecdotes, hoary jokes, film clips, philosophizing, and yes, a demonstration of his singing talent or lack thereof. But between the Trekkies and viewers of T.J. Hooker and Boston Legal, among others, the theater should be reasonably filled during this limited run. Following this engagement, he’ll be doing one-nighters around the country, including Los Angeles’ Pantages Theatre on March 10.
After an introduction featuring–what else?–the Star Trek theme and a comic voiceover warning about cell phones delivered by the actor himself, Shatner bounds onto the stage with an energy belying his 80 years. He’s clearly delighted to be there, displaying the same sort of knowing, self-mocking vanity with which he’s infused appearances on the likes of his Comedy Central roast and the AFI tribute to George Lucas, clips of which are shown.
He relates the story of his life in roughly chronological fashion, beginning with his upbringing in Montreal, in which he was expected to go into his father’s men’s clothing business. He first achieved renown when he went on for an ailing Christopher Plummer in the title role of Henry V at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival with virtually no advance preparation.
VIDEO: William Shatner and Patrick Stewart
This led to movies, live television and Broadway, where he appeared in such plays as The World of Suzie Wong. He amusingly explains that it was in that critically maligned show that he refined his now oft-imitated, declamatory speaking style as a way of keeping audiences entertained.
Naturally, his Star Trek experiences in the original series and subsequent films do not go unmentioned. What’s most surprising is that–unlike his sneering “get a life” attitude in the past—he reveals that he’s now come to terms with its importance to his life, helped by the more prideful attitude of one of his successors in the captain’s chair, Patrick Stewart.
The rambling monologue, including such subjects as his love of horses (an adjustable office chair, the show’s chief prop, is called into much action for this part), his mortality (“Death is the final frontier!”) and a personal encounter with Koko the gorilla, is infused with enough one-liners to fill a stand-up act. Not all of them land, but his joy in delivering them is infectious.
Finally, he gets around to his much mocked recording career, including The Transformed Man, the landmark 1968 album featuring such songs as “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.” But he’s clearly not embarrassed by that or such follow-up releases as “Has Been,” which have achieved a cult following. He ends the show by talk-singing “Real,” a number written for him by country star Brad Paisley. But he might just as easily have done “My Way.”
Venue: Music Box Theatre, New York. Through March 4
Cast: William Shatner
Director: Scott Faris
Scenic designer: Edward Pierce
Lighting designer: Ken Billington
Sound designer: Peter Fitzgerald
Presented by Innovation Arts & Entertainment, Larry A. Thompson Organization, Adam Troy Epstein, Seth Keyes, Josh Sherman and Larry A. Thompson
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