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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.