William Shatner at Jones Hall: Shakespeare, Horses and Coming to Terms with Star Trek
Photos by Joan Marcus
Bill Shatner doesn't think George Takei is very funny.
And he's right. Sorry to break it to everybody who likes to repost the latter's photos every day, but Shatner has video proof. Namely, Takei's awkward joke delivery at that Comedy Central Roast. It was just one of several video clips and photos that accompanied his one-man show, "Shatner's World: We Just Live in It." And in spite of the admittedly bombastic title, Friday night's performance at Jones Hall found the former starship captain surprisingly self-deprecating as he waxed philosophic about his career, hobbies and lessons learned.
The evening was also refreshingly light on Star Trek nostalgia.
Let me just say off the bat that, like the Bobs and Michael Bolton, I celebrate the man's entire catalog. From The Twilight Zone and Star Trek to Boston Legal. I still regularly spin The Transformed Man and still own -- somewhere -- an authentic T.J. Hooker riot gun. He inhabited my childhood and formative years like few living celebrities.
He also has the energy of a man half his 81 years (I can speak with authority, being about that myself). Alternating between roaming the stage and taking to a rolling executive chair for certain interludes, Shatner started out discussing his early days, getting involved in theater while in high school in Montreal and sneaking off to burlesque shows to enjoy the comedians (and Lili St. Cyr).
Shatner devotes a great deal of time discussing his early career as a summer stock actor and his work in the Stratford Festival of Canada, where he understudied fellow Canadian Christopher Plummer in Henry V. This gave the subsequent clip, of himself as Kirk squaring off with the decidedly Shakespearean villain General Chang in Star Trek VI, that much more oomph.
The series for which he's arguably the most famous (sorry, Rescue: 911 enthusiasts) merits only a few mentions, which isn't entirely off base. Shatner tried to distance himself from Star Trek for a long time (I'm a little surprised he didn't play the "Get a life" clip Friday), but reveals to his audience that an interview he conducted with Patrick Stewart (Jean-Luc Picard, the second best Starfleet officer to helm the U.S.S. Enterprise) for his documentary The Captains, in which Stewart allowed that he would "be fine" with being chiefly remembered for ST, finally allowed him to make peace with what will likely be his most enduring acting legacy.
Unless they decide to make a series of $#*! My Dad Says movies, I guess.
The sizable Jones Hall crowd was especially appreciative of Shatner's obvious love for NASA and the space program, recounting his wonder at being allowed to sit in the Lunar Excursion Module (and his subsequent pranking by the technicians) and his honor at being allowed to deliver the wakeup call to the Discovery on its last mission.
If the show bogs down at any point, it's during Shatner's extended paean to one of his great loves: horses. There's no doubting the man's passion for American Saddlebreds, and the many lessons he's learned from the animals, but you got the feeling folks in the audience were waiting to hear some dirt about Adrian Zmed.
Shatner shows no sign of slowing down, but several times the show came across as something of a premature memoriam to a man trying to offer the lessons he's learned from a lifetime in the spotlight. None of his messages ("Life is a risk," "Love is the only answer to death," etc.) will inspire new college courses, but closing the show with a rendition of "Real" (from 2004's Has Been, written for him by Brad Paisley), Shatner was clearly both proud of and humbled by what he's been given.
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