Review: ‘Shatner’s World’ On Broadway + Opening Night Pix

Last night Star Trek’s original Kirk William Shatner opened his new Broadway show "Shatner’s World: We Just Live In It" (which will be going on the road for a US tour next month). This new one-man show is an evolution from his 2011 tours in Australia and Canada. TrekMovie was in New York to see if it was Shat-tastic. Read the review below, accompanied by photos from opening night. 

 

REVIEW: "Shatner’s World: We Just Live In It" on Broadway

When asked if I wanted to cover opening night of William Shatner’s one man show on Broadway for TrekMovie, my immediate reaction was “I can do that.” Little did I know how much that decision would be in league with the spirit of the show. I’d seen a press release here or there that this thing was happening but it wasn’t until I made it to the Theater District – usually a part of Manhattan I only visit when I have relatives in from out of town – when it hit me. Captain Kirk on Broadway. What the hell is that all about?!?

“Shatner’s World” is about 100 straight minutes of unfiltered Shatner. To some that sounds like a dream come true, to others a true vision inside of George Orwell’s Room 101. I feel confident in saying that your appreciation of the show is entirely predictable based on your attitudes toward the man. As a fanatical Star Trek fan I, of course, love my first Captain and I keep an amused appreciation of his current work, be it “Shatner’s Raw Nerve” or “The Captains.”

The all Shatner event starts with music of the original Star Trek theme and a shaft of light hitting center stage, with the implication (and sound effect) of a transporter in progress. Then suddenly Shatner enters from stage left jibing "I’m not going to beam in" and he kicks off the show.


William Shatner in "Shatner’s World: We Just Live In It" on Broadway at the Music Box Theater – Opening Night February 16, 2012 (Photo: Joan Marcus)

“Shatner’s World” is a loosely strung together narrative of Bill telling his life story.  If you frequent conventions, read any of Shatner’s memoirs or saw “The Captains” you probably heard some of these stories before. Still, the man knows how to spin a yarn, and when he gets rollin’ he can really play an audience.

There isn’t too much of a narrative thread in the show, but most of his remembrances are in chronological order. Some of the funnier stories are from his childhood and student years, but things actually take a turn for the poignant when he discusses his father’s death and an incident involving difficulties with one of his prize horses. When he’s goofing around he’s charming, but when he has to draw the audience in and do some actual acting, he’s alarmingly effective.


William Shatner in "Shatner’s World: We Just Live In It" on Broadway at the Music Box Theater – Opening Night February 16, 2012 (Photo: Joan Marcus)

The (mostly) bare stage uses video projection onto a circular screen (it has a “screensaver” mode of galaxies, naturally) and relevant video or stills appear to compliment whatever story is being told. Surprisingly (and, to me and perhaps you, too) there isn’t that much Star Trek content in the show. There are two clips from Trek – the “risk is our business” monologue and Kirk’s death from “Generations.” (The latter prompts a dopey gag, “usually it’s Captain on the bridge – here was bridge on the Captain!”) During some of the vamping between more rehearsed sequences there was a lighthearted zing or two tossed towards George Takei, but other than that and a passing mention to Leonard Nimoy when discussing the “Golden Throats” albums, that’s all you’ll hear about Trek alumni. This is, very much, Shatner’s show.

And at the end, he sings. Not “Rocket Man,” not “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” (heck, there’s a moment when he’s about to sing “Happy Birthday” but stops himself because “that would cost money!”) but fans of the “Has Been” album will get a kick out of what he chooses to close with.


William Shatner in "Shatner’s World: We Just Live In It" on Broadway at the Music Box Theater – Opening Night February 16, 2012 (Photo: Joan Marcus)

As the show makes its way toward the end some attempt is made to tie together all of these observations and anecdotes. Shatner concludes that life is harsh, frightening and reluctant to give answers (yeah, it gets strangely dark for a moment or two) but that the power of love can ease the pain, and the only way to find love is to always be saying “I can do that” to any opportunity that comes your way.

This is reiterated with some stories of how saying yes led to important moments in his life – like getting a practical joke played on him by NASA, recording music with Ben Folds and having a sexually charged encounter with an 800 lb gorilla.

If I have a chief complaint about the show is that there is a definite problem with the flow. Try as he might to create segues, there isn’t much of a connection between the stories and not all of them have a nice button of a closer. Much of the show is like listening to a great friend keep you entertained during dinner and then, when prompted “what happened then?” brushing you off with, “well, nothing really.” Despite taking great joy in listening to Bill Shatner, say, describe racing against the sun from Vancouver to Chicago with a Rabbi and his wife in the back of his car, there were a few awkward moments of “yeah, and. . .that’s it?” before charging into a nearly entirely unrelated next story.


William Shatner in "Shatner’s World: We Just Live In It" on Broadway at the Music Box Theater – Opening Night February 16, 2012 (Photo: Joan Marcus)

For those that are not fond of William Shatner, you may get hives at some of the more self-congratulatory moments in the show. The clip of from “The Captains” of Shatner describing to Patrick Stewart that he is now free to be proud of his work on Star Trek was tough enough to watch the first time – it’s even tougher when the man thumping his chest is a few feet from you watching the scene, too.

As a fan, I was able to brush this aside. If you are someone who has been to a convention and seen how Shatner can just get on stage and go, then thought “man, I could watch that happen for over and hour and a half without a break,” then “Shatner’s World” is just the show you’ve been waiting for.


William Shatner in "Shatner’s World: We Just Live In It" on Broadway at the Music Box Theater – Opening Night February 16, 2012 (Photo: Joan Marcus)

The limited run of "Shatner’s World: We Just Live In It" continues at the Music Box Theater (where Marlon Brando performed in his first show! Historic!) until March 4th. Bill then hits the road for engagements in fifteen cities across the USA in March and April. For more specific info and tickets, visit www.ShatnersWorld.com.

 

Jordan Hoffman is a friend of TrekMovie and a New York-based freelance writer and critic.

Sort by:   newest | oldest
Harry Ballz
February 17, 2012 9:35 am

Gee, I wonder if the Shat is enjoying all the attention?

Amish Electrician
February 17, 2012 9:39 am

Shat has a hole in his right shoe..

denny cranium
February 17, 2012 10:00 am

@#2
Really? Is that all you’ve got?

It’s interesting that Shatner only gave a cursory look at his Trek years.
Considering its his iconic role and arguably why he is the celebrity he is today I would have hoped for more Trek stories.
Maybe its a double edged sword for him.If he focused too much on Trek the critics would have blasted him for making this a Trek convention on Broadway.
Perhaps the show will evolve as he gets some valid feedback.
Thanks to Jordan for giving us his review

Bobby
February 17, 2012 10:13 am

This sounds pretty awesome.

I was really tempted until I saw the price – tickets start at about $80 per person (including fees). Yikes. At least in Dallas, that’s the closest show to where I live.

Danpaine
February 17, 2012 10:15 am

I’d like to see it. Or a dvd of it.

Good for him. He’s had/still has a long, interesting career.

Besides being by far my favorite Captain, I respect the work he’s done. Just the other night I watched his Twilight Zone episode “Nick Of Time,” from 1960. Great stuff. And here in 2012 he’s still out there, doing his thing.

That’s a lot to be proud of.

captain_neill
February 17, 2012 10:25 am

I’d love to see this show. I love Shatner and it sounds epic.

I Wish I Was Spock
February 17, 2012 10:27 am

I wouldn’t be surprised if this is made into a DVD…in fact, I hope it does!

CmdrR
February 17, 2012 10:29 am

Wonder what he’ll do for his 101st birthday?

Shat’s not anything you expect, but he always holds your attention.

rm10019
February 17, 2012 10:30 am

6 – I can assure you it is not epic. I attended the first night of previews, and was ready for an epic, Broadway worthy show but unfortunately was disappointed.

I have written a review over at TrekBBS, but suffice it to say, if this is Mr. Shatner’s attempt for the Tony (in the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony EGOT) all we are left with after the show is EGO.

I give him much credit for doing any one-man show, but with little actual ‘performance’ this show didn’t have enough substance, and I am a life-long Trek and Shatner fan.

Baroner
February 17, 2012 11:38 am

PLEASE Bob Orci and crew, ask Shat to be in the new movie.

Anthony Thompson
February 17, 2012 11:44 am

MJ, I’ll be waiting for your review.

Lt. Bailey
February 17, 2012 11:57 am

This is going to be seen on EPICs like his CAPTAINS documentry which I eventually bought on DVD anyway. This is most likely to come out on DVD too in a few months, Shatner has updates on his website if you know what to look for.

Gary Seven
February 17, 2012 12:05 pm

I am not at all surprised that Shatner gave such little attention to Trek. He has been consistent, throughout his life, in not articulating the meaning and importance of Star Trek to so many people. I contrast this with, for example, Leonard Nimoy’s many thoughtful statements on Star Trek. I think Shatner has finally gotten some idea why people love Trek, but it took him until the last few years to get some idea. He spoke at the Vegas Convention about understanding Trek in terms of Joseph Campbell’s ideas about mythology, and said this helped him finally realized why Star Trek touched so many people.
I am amazed that it took him so long to get that far. But I am not surprised that the show does not emphasize Trek at all.

Shatner_Fan_Prime
February 17, 2012 1:53 pm

Not only am I going, I’m paying $300 for the meet & greet at the Houston show! “Sounds like fun.” :)

Tom
February 17, 2012 2:54 pm

10 Baroner

I love the passion for getting Bill in the new movie. I just don’t see the same coming from Bob JJ and co anymore. What can be done about that?

NCM
February 17, 2012 2:56 pm

I’d have been surprised to learn that he gave Trek, or any former co-star, much mention on any occasion, let alone at his one-man Shatshow. I’ve always thought Shatner vacillated between snubbing Trek and trying to rile fans (he’d at other times disparage) to campaign for his reinstatement in any Trek endeavor. He seems more conflicted than any half-Vulcan. One moment, his actions betray a very fragile ego; the next… his ego swells. It can’t be easy being Shatner, but he seems to know who and what he is and I find him genuinely interesting only in those moments when he’s poking fun at his own neurosis.

Hope any of you seeing him live, or buying the expected DVD, do enjoy the show.

Jeff
February 17, 2012 3:02 pm

Where are the tour dates ?

AJ
February 17, 2012 4:05 pm

The local newspapers here in the NY/NJ area have given the show generally decent reviews, i.e. 3/4 stars, and essentially echo Mr. Hoffman’s take up top. Shatner has also had interviews with the Times (again) and the Daily News, so everyone knows he’s here, for sure.

No word yet on whether he’s selling lots of tickets. The season on Broadway usually gets cracking around St. Patrick’s Day, so it’s a win-win for the Music Box during the seasonal lull.

AJ
February 17, 2012 4:06 pm
Starbase Britain
February 17, 2012 4:07 pm

Mr Shatner, Please come to the United Kingdom of Great Britain with your wonderful show.
cheers
Greg

February 17, 2012 4:26 pm

I am dying to see this when it comes to LA. Now if only I can convince the wife to get tickets before they sell out…

Jon
February 17, 2012 6:19 pm

Got my tickets for the San Francisco show a couple of weeks back. Can’t wait!!

February 17, 2012 6:58 pm

I saw the Canadian version of this show when Shatner appeared in Winnipeg. It was in more of an “interview” format, with someone else moderating, but from this review, the anecdotes sound the same.

As the review says, don’t go in expecting a lot of Trek-related stories or gossip. (Besides, as a fan, you’ll have heard/read them all before anyway.) Sadly, you also shouldn’t go if you’re mainly a Boston Legal fan, as he had next to nothing to say about Denny Crane.

If you’re interested in Shatner as a person, though–what shaped him, how he grew up, how things like his relationship with his father and his Jewish background made him the person he is today–and his outlook on life in the wake of family tragedies and the twists and turns of his career, then you can get a lot out of his presenting those aspects of himself to you.

Thomas
February 17, 2012 6:58 pm

When you’ve done as much as Shatner has done, I can understand why he wouldn’t want to focus too much on Trek. Having starred in multiple series besides Trek and reaching the status of a pop-culture icon, it leaves a lot of area to cover. Trek may be a huge reason why he’s well-remembered today, but I think an argument could be made that Shatner has become bigger than Trek, at least for the time being.

February 17, 2012 10:21 pm

The guy is gold.

Not everyone i know likes Star Trek but pretty much everyone loves William Shatner.

David Jones
February 18, 2012 2:05 am

I’m going to the Pantages shw, I’ll let you guys in on any inside info.

VulcanFilmCritic
February 18, 2012 4:20 am

This should be interesting…

I’m one of those people who is not in the thrall of William Shatner. I loved The Captain when Star Trek first premiered in 1966, but I quickly got tired of (what was for the time) his excessive talking. Sure he was the hero and great at action sequences, but the writers just didn’t give him much depth after the first season. It was only in the movies that Kirk got the kind of treatment he deserved.

As a person, I find Shatner to be a bizarre eogomaniac, but strangely amusing. His “singing” is atrocious, really. Nimoy’s “singing” is what one does in the shower, but Shatner’s “vocalizations” are to me gut bustingly funny. His ghost-written books, however, are often worth reading because of their unvarnished quality. Shatner has a way of ripping through the bull feathers that often surrounds much of Star Trek lore.

So it is with more than a touch of ambivalence that I bought a ticket. Half of me wanted to be amused and the other half of me wanted to see him bomb, live on stage.

February 18, 2012 5:32 am

You find him a bizarre egomaniac, you know him personally do you?

DeShonn Steinblatt
February 18, 2012 10:47 am

He has to lose weight. He’s almost 81.

Keachick - rose pinenut
February 18, 2012 2:35 pm

#29 Maybe. So long as he doesn’t suddenly start losing weight fast. If that happens, then there is something very wrong going on with him. The older a person gets, that also becomes more of a possibility.

VulcanFilmCritic
February 18, 2012 2:39 pm

@28 chrisfawkes.com I’ve seen this guy at Star Trek conventions since 1975, and what I have seen hasn’t always been pretty. I’ve spoken with him and seen enough to come to the same conclusion as James Doohan:
“I just don’t like the man.”

Last year I had dinner around this time with a group of die-hard Star Trek fans, some of whom had worked as volunteers for Creation Entertainment and not one would raise a toast to Shatner on his 80th birthday. They hated him that much.

When I suggested that we raise a toast to Leonard Nimoy, they all went goo-goo eyed and cooed, “Oh, he’s so nice” or words to that effect, all around the table. Everyone had a “nice” story to tell about Mr. Nimoy.
Now, I first got to talk to him face-to-face in 1973, and I would concur that he has always been unfailingly polite (unless he was, you know, drunk or something) but I wouldn’t call him nice. I’d just call him polite.
Which is more than I can say for Mr. Shatner.

Edwin
February 18, 2012 3:32 pm

I am going next Saturday! Can’t w8! Should be a lotta fun.

Sebastian S.
February 18, 2012 4:47 pm

“The Captains” doc was more than enough for me, thanks.

I’ve seen Shatner on stage live at conventions several times, and frankly, I just couldn’t imagine paying Broadway prices to sit through that again…

Jack
February 19, 2012 2:58 am

V.Film Critic, Gary Seven and NCM:

All pretty fair, thoughtful takes on Shatner. I agree that he’s been all over the map in his relationship to Trek and to fans — the word evolved doesn’t fit because his real views still seem hard to pin down, even now. I wonder if it would be odd, to have been, even briefly and mostly on the periphery, in that 50s and 60s hollywood star system and then have fans not praising your looks or acting but, instead, have them acting, years later, as if that character you played for 2 or 3 years is real and you know everything about him (not just,” hey, I loved you on that space show!” but “Captain Kirk!” hero worship from most, along with “Captain Kirk!” ridicule from critics etc.) especially if you’re still having trouble getting steady work.

VulcanFilmCritic
February 19, 2012 4:23 am

@34 You’re right, Jack. Given the terrible toll Fame must take on the psyche, I would say that the Star Trek Alums have done relatively well. Princess Diana once said that her life after Charles was like going to her own wedding…every day. And I guess if the paparazzi don’t like you it must be like going to your own tarring and feathering every day.

Given the propensity of “Stars” (not actors, per se but “Stars”) to off themselves with prescription drugs (Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, Heath Ledger, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, et al) and the adulation/white-hot fame/type casting that followed the ST crew, suicide was remarkably uncommon among them. A little substance abuse here and there, a failed marriage or two, hardly the stuff of the tabloids.

I guess I should give them credit for keeping their heads together, but I would just hope that, like Mr. NImoy, who found some kind of acceptance of it all, Mr. Shatner can someday find peace with his fans and fame, ’cause HE’S STILL MEAN!

Iowagirl
February 19, 2012 6:28 am

#14
Good for you, buddy! :)

February 19, 2012 9:02 am

Shatner has always expressed embarrassment about Trek, so his treatment of it should be a surprise to no one. Trek Fans love for him has never really be returned.

murt
February 19, 2012 12:52 pm

@37 – yes I agree. And Star Trek did mark, coincidentally or not, a turning point in Shat’s career. He was respected as a serious actor prior to Trek, and then immediately afterward became the subject of constant ridicule.

That must have been hard to take – remember, for a long time post-Star Trek, he was known as ‘the worst actor ever’ or something to that effect. Plus, at the same time, his looks faded which probably compounded everything.

He must blame Star Trek for some of that. I probably would if I were him. Does that give him an excuse to take out his feelings on fans, especially when he’s making the choice to do conventions? Of course not.

Keachick - rose pinenut
February 19, 2012 1:25 pm

Is that true? Did people refer to him as “the worst actor ever” because of what he did on Star Trek? I thought he played Kirk wonderfully on TOS, which is why Kirk has always been one of my favourite television characters.

I read somewhere recently someone commenting on how many people see William Shatner overacting when he played Kirk and this person disagreeing, saying that it is not a matter of William Shatner overacting, but most other actors underacting. I tend to agree, especially if you look at how many characters are played now – actors mumbling in a monotone and not showing much emotion at all, even when I would think the situation would demand a greater emotional reaction.

That is, perhaps, why I like Chris Pine, because he is often very expressive vocally, not unlike Shatner – you know – acting/being, not underacting. Probably a good reason why Chris won the part of Captain Kirk, among others, as opposed to other actors auditioning for the part.

Robert Bernardo
February 19, 2012 1:35 pm

Nice! I’ll see him at the San Francisco show.

Harry Ballz
February 19, 2012 3:08 pm

39.

Keachick, I basically agree with you. Shatner’s acting style in TOS seemed appropriate for the setting of the stories.

Hey, when you’re throwing around paper mache boulders, wrestling lizards with zippers up their backs and dealing with aliens who are half black and half-white, you’d better be “larger than life”!

I really think that if TOS had cast an average actor as Captain (instead of Shatner), we wouldn’t be so enamored with the show all these many years later.

Jinn-Jinn
February 19, 2012 6:23 pm

I am too new to Star Trek to form an opinion on William Shatner. The first time I got introduced to his acting was in the show Third Rock From the Sun. I perceive him as a good comedian and very good at keeping a straight face. :)

Reading all these comments just makes me want to study the man more. Its not that I don’t believe someone’s opinion more than another, but as a teacher of mine once said, the truth is always somewhere in the middle.

Shannon Nutt
February 20, 2012 6:58 am

So this is basically no different than the thousands of convention appearances Bill has given over the years. He comes out, he tells an hour or so of stories from his career, and he says goodnight. The only difference being at cons, fans actually got to ask some questions.

murt
February 20, 2012 7:54 pm

@Keachick – yes unfortunately it’s true – he was lampooned big time for his weight and hair as well. I loved him in TOS though!

ST-One
February 21, 2012 12:10 am

This sounds a lot like what Carrie Fisher does in her “Wishful Drinking” show…

Jack
February 21, 2012 1:02 pm

I’m trying to remember where I read Shatner saying that at least one early TOS critic (after the pilot or first one or two episodes, maybe?) called his acting wooden. It quickly became a lot more animated (I’M Captain Kirk!!!).

In the beginning (the pilots and first couple of episodes), both Kirk and Pike seemed to be written (and directed) as pretty sober, pensive, overthinking, self-lacerating characters who really felt the weight of command. That side of Kirk was, I think, resurrected in the movies (but coexisted next to the sense of humour and bravado).

Jack
February 21, 2012 1:13 pm

PS. I’m really hoping that any version of this speech, or anything like it, isn’t in the next Star Trek movie (although, it did convince me as a kid that I could bring anybody to my side by giving an equally theatrical speech — my folks didn’t buy the “risk is our business!” line when I was trying to get them to buy me an Atari):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_cOlJdObNlc&feature=related

VulcanFilmCritic
February 21, 2012 7:20 pm

@47 I actually like this speech. It’s what Kirk is all about. I can’t imagine Chris Pine getting all worked up like this over anything in the new franchise.
Nu-Kirk is a little too Joe Cool for me.

Keachick - rose pinenut
February 21, 2012 10:14 pm

So do I love that speech. It is that kind of passion and belief in who he is, what he is doing as a captain of an explorer starship and what Starfleet is about which is what must have been inspiration to many kids watching at the time who later became scientists, etc. Everything has become ho-hum, blase and cynical, “yeah, yeah, whatever”.

I would love it if there could be a similar speech given by nu-Kirk in the next movie. What was shown in the Casting segment of the second DVD, it appeared that Chris Pine was able to do that kind of speaking, but JJ Abrams decided that perhaps it was a little over-the-top for the scenes they were doing. However, this is a different story, different scenes…

February 22, 2012 7:55 am

Great review! I think it’s very accurate– especially when you relate seeing the show to having dinner with a friend who’s entertaining you with stories. That’s exactly how I felt seeing the show.

I wish there was a bit of a smoother flow.. but the lack of flow didn’t ruin my night.

I also wrote a review on my blog. Check it out at http://themikejones.wordpress.com/2012/02/16/i-saw-william-shatner-on-broadway/

wpDiscuz