January 26, 2016 Shatner’s World Takes Over NYCB Theatre At Westbury, NY 1-22-16
Some actors are typecast, and whenever their faces are seen, the mainstream only think of their portrayed character’s name. A blessing or burden, some actors transcend the character, and, in essence, become eternal. With that said, whenever one sees or hears the name William Shatner, they will always know him as Captain James T. Kirk. That is because the bewilderment and strength that Shatner has inside of him was so prevalent in how he played the role of Captain Kirk, beginning in 1966 with Sci-Fi classic Star Trek. It is his most known and endearing role, and he projected that power in all the roles played over his impressive sixty-five plus year career. With that in mind, Shatner is a man of many talents; he is an actor, director, producer, author, comedian, spokesman, and even a singer. He is also well-known for his philanthropy. He has won numerous awards, including two Emmy Awards, a Golden Globe Award, and a People’s Choice Award. In 2014, he was honored to be awarded NASA’s Distinguished Public Service Medal, which is the highest-ranking award NASA can give to a civilian.
A man with such distinguished accomplishments certainly warrants his own show. Well that is exactly what Mr. Shatner developed just a few years ago when he began performing Shatner’s World: We Just Live In It live. A one-man show that takes the audience through Shatner’s life and career, the act has received criticially positive reviews whenever Shatner has brought it. That would not change when he arrived at NYCB Theatre at Westbury in New York on Friday, January 22nd. With the pending Winter storm Jonas on the way, Long Islanders were not deterred from coming out to see Shatner’s performance, and the theater filled up rather quickly. Configured in the half-round format, the area around the stage displayed a space scene on it as the enthusiastic audience of all ages, from teens to seniors, some wearing Star Trek related shirts, entered the room.
With everyone in their seats, the lights dimmed and a brief introduction, in Shatner’s voice, played over the PA system. Cracking his first joke of the evening, before he even takes foot on stage, Shatner requested that recording and photographing should not take place during the performance, especially should anyone use a flash-bulb, he might stumble off the stage, and “that would only be funny once.” The theme music to Star Trek then played as Shatner walked out on stage and the audience greeted him with an abundance of cheers. Shatner was comfortably dressed in blue jeans, a simple dark blue dress shirt, suspenders under his black jacket, and black sneakers. An office style chair then came rolling out from behind the curtain and Shatner introduces it as his “co-chair for the evening” before he begins to bring the audience on a voyage of his story.
Shatner commented on his entry on stage this evening and then reminisced to a time not long ago when Comedy Central did a Roast of him. Premiering that special back in 2006, they let him make the entrance of all entrances; he rode in on a horse. He commented on how some people are funny and some not so much, and a line was written to start the Roast that was given to George Takei. Helping the audience with a visual, a clip from the Shatner Roast was played on the video screen as Shatner watched it with the audience and Takei said abruptly, “Fuck you and the horse you rode in on!” Not only did that get a huge laugh on the replay, but the audience laughed out loud too. Shatner commented on how funny it was and that was probably the best entrance he ever made.
He then took his fans on a journey to where it all began, in Montreal, Canada. Starting with a brief journey on the times he would skip school to go see a play, or a burlesque show, or two. He also spoke of how he earned his education and gained a Bachelors Of Commerce Degree, despite loathing the accounting courses. Inevitably, it was something his father wanted for him and he respectfully carried it through, but his love for acting swiftly took him away from the world of business. Starting as an understudy for Christopher Plummer in Shakespeare’s Henry V, he quickly rose to stardom when Plummer was unable to perform one night. While doing an ill-fated Broadway play, Tamburlaine The Great, he developed his signature way of speaking when he found audience members getting bored and leaving the play midway through the show. Instead of the show being cancelled, his charismatic charm and deliverance saved it, and it ran for two whole years. He then said, “And you wonder. Why. I. Talk. Like. This.” The audience went wild with cheering and laughter.
Keeping the show loose and interesting, Shatner referred to himself as a “relic.” With that said, he sighted how he came from a time of doing a play during the day and then doing live television at night, or vise versa, and how live television was so natural for him with his background doing theater. He then mentioned how his movie career got going and that some were great and some were forgettable, as he laughed. During this segment, a photograph of a younger Shatner, from his role as Alexander The Great, displayed on the screen. Shatner smiled at the photo and some of the female audience members “Oohed” at it. He commented on how he always loved horses and that made this role an even more rich experience for him. This led Shatner to take a few moments to discuss his love of animals, his experience with Great Day, a majestic stud horse he owned, and a moment he shared the previous evening with his fifteen year old Doberman, Bucky. He talked about the love you can have with another being and how powerful non-verbal communication can be.
Then, the inevitable moment came, Shatner said, “I took a risk when I answered the phone one day. I was in New York and Gene Roddenberry was on the other end of the line asking me to come to LA to look over a script for a pilot.” Those who do not know, that pilot was for a series that initially had another pilot, but it did not hit it off too well with the networks. Nonetheless, Shatner paused for a moment and then continued, “I took a look at it and wanted in. We made the pilot, it ran for three years, and that was Star Trek.” He broke away from the subject to fondly talk about the relationship that grew with NASA, after all, Captain Kirk did “boldly go where no man has gone before.” Shatner hopes that, in some small way, he was part of getting that first man on the moon, and he told the audience how he viewed the first landing on the moon from a small four-inch television. At the time, he was in a small RV, the kind one finds on a pickup truck, but it was off of the flatbed and propped up on its four support legs, ironically mimicking the spacecraft that landed on the moon. He was broke, divorced, and somewhere on the East End of Long Island out by Montauk. He said the following day, a young boy came to his RV and asked if he was indeed Captain Kirk? In exchange, Shatner said he was and brought the boy in to show him his spaceship. He then joked about how there is probably some middle aged man telling everyone that he was in the Starship Enterprise, as Shatner gestured with his hands to the audience, they then looked around in wonderment, could that boy be here in this venue tonight?
Getting melancholy, Shatner talked about death and how it is always a part of life. He shared his feelings on how he decided to play the role of Captain Kirk’s death in the 1994 movie Star Trek: Generations. He felt the character needed to go out the way he lived, with “awe and wonderment.” He then said, “After all, isn’t that how we all want to go, as we lived? Death is the final frontier.” This led him to discuss the passing of his Father, and some of his Father’s history as a German immigrant coming to Montreal. How he found his wife, Nerine, dead, and how it devastated him. Although, he explained how life goes on and you have to find a way through it. Then, he met his wife, Elizabeth, and she has been the love of his life for the past sixteen years. He then spoke of being a divorced father, his devotion to his three daughters, and mentioned an interesting ski trip they once had together.
Moving right along, and not loosing anyone’s interest, Shatner took a few moments to discuss some relationships with other actors over the years. He fondly recalled an interview he did with Patrick Stewart. A part of the interview was then played on the video screen: Stewart was referencing how he embraces the fact that even though he has done so many other roles in his career, most people know him as Captain Picard. For Shatner, this moment solidified the importance in his own life and how he too is always referenced to a character he played so long ago, when his own body of work is so vast. Shatner then said how he takes pride in his notoriety as Captain Kirk. Shatner then spoke about his times on the set with the actors on Boston Legal and how he enjoyed those five years with them.
Rounding out his impressive career, Shatner reminisced about the time he did the Johnny Carson Show, promoting a Spoken Word album he had done, 1968’s The Transformed Man. While it was not that successful, that did not stop him from releasing another album many years later. With the help of Ben Folds as the producer, he released a well-received album of Spoken Word and song in 2004, called Has Been. A song from that album, “Familiar Love” played over the PA as Shatner took a moment to dance with his partner on stage, his “co-chair.” The music stopped and Shatner said, “At the end of every journey, you arrive at where you began.” “I have always kept it real,” he said, then he discussed how he did a song on that album that Brad Paisley wrote, and Paisley also played guitar on the recording. The song “Real” began to play, but this time it was only the musical track to the song as Shatner treated the audience to his Spoken Word style of singing. It was a meaningful and uplifting way to end the evening, and once the song was over, Shatner thanked everyone for coming out while wishing them all a good night. Inspired by the show, the audience gave him a standing ovation as they cheered for him at the tops of their lungs. He then simply walked through the black curtain, just the same as the show had began.
Shatner’s performance was a full two hours, but with no dull points, even though it was just one man speaking. He was sharp, witty, funny, and on-point throughout. His charismatic way drew the audience in as he shared just some of the most meaningful moments in his life and career. The audience clearly enjoyed being part of Shatner’s World, even if it was only for a brief time. This is, by far, one show no one should not miss, so be sure to catch him in his one man, Spoken Word, tour as it will continue throughout the United States until February 6th.