Yes, he really does go where no man has gone before because he goes his own way, and that's quite wonderful.
William Shatner's one-man show, "Shatner's World we just live in it ..." opened Thursday night (Feb. 16) at The Music Box. It's great fun, and this is from someone who was not a bona fide Trekkie.
Clearly many in the theater were, and cheered as soon as the familiar strains of the theme song filled the theater. What Shatner very ably does, with "Star Trek" and other earlier TV gigs, stage work and movies, is give the audience his perspective on himself.
To do a one-person show about one's life, one must have lived; think about how thrilling memoirs from teenagers are. And at 80, Shatner has lived a terrific life. He opens with "Star Trek" memories, which makes sense because he knows that he will always be remembered as Captain James Tiberius Kirk. (Even those among us who never owned a phaser gun know his full name.)
Against a set with a desk and a small table, a huge moon, and stars, a shaft of light beams down and he says, "I'm not beaming in. I can make an entrance with a rocket strapped to my a**."
Wearing jeans, a nicely tailored black jacket, a white shirt and a gray vest, Shatner talks and introduces clips of his work for over an hour and a half, with no intermission.
He reminisces about his childhood, pokes some gentle fun at his mom: "What's the difference between a Rottweiler and a Jewish mother? A Rottweiler eventually lets go."
Like so many actors, he knew his calling very young. His mom had sent him to summer camp, where he was in a play and realized the effect he could have on the audience. That was it.
He cut high school to hang out at Montreal's last burlesque house where striptease artist Lili St. Cyr enchanted him and vaudevillians cracked him up: "My cousin got an exorcism," he says. "She couldn't afford to pay -- so they repossessed."
He talks of those who influenced him, and adored Dick Shawn who died on stage, still getting a laugh. "That's the way comics want to go," Shatner says. "I don't know if it will happen tonight."
It didn't. He tells long stories, which have the feel of truth, burnished by many retellings. Shatner shows photos of his family, dances with a chair and basically charms. He maintains he was the worst student to ever attend Medill, and gets the irony when the university invites him back to bestow an honorary doctorate.
"Don't be afraid of making an a** of yourself," he told Medill students. "I do it all the time and look where I got."
He seems fearless, and thank you, Mr. Shatner for answering the question that has long dogged those who wonder about his rather emphatic delivery of lines.
Shatner was in a Broadway play, "The World of Suzy Wong" which had gotten panned out of town and in New York. But the producers wouldn't close it, even though entire rows of people were leaving during the performance. The star, France Nuyen, wanted out because she was in love with Marlon Brando, so Shatner says she would simply stop talking - on stage. To fill the silence, Shatner just started talking more and more, faster and faster. The rhythms of his speech came out this way and stuck.
After listening to Shatner for a while, you can't help but marvel at his varied career, which includes cutting three LPs. And if you have never heard his spoken word version of "Mr. Tambourine Man" truly, you must.
He talk sings -- that is his style -- a song Brad Paisley wrote for him, and it is perfect: "Just because you have seen me on TV doesn't mean I am any more enlightened than you," Shatner says. "Sorry to disappoint you but I am real."
Photo/Video credit: WilliamShatner.com