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A CurtainUp Review
we just live in it
By Elyse Sommer
The many hats the 80-year young William Shatner has worn since his days as an understudy to Christopher Plummer in Shakespeare's Henry V, include that marked Raconteur. given the many friends he's made as Captain Kirk in Star Trek, Denny Crane in The Practice and Boston Legal, as host of Raw Nerve and recording artist (Raw Space) a living or party room is hardly big enough to accommodate the generation crossing fans eager to share his multi-faceted, multi-media life experiences. Judging from the crowd yelling, cheering and laughing up a storm at the Music Box at Wednesday night's performance, the house will be packed throughout the brief run that will launch Shatner's World on a national tour.
Images of both the handsome young Captain Kirk and the older, chubbier Shatner of Boston Legal have joined the ranks of the instantly even for people like me, who are neither Trekkies, or regular followers of Shatner's TV shows. And while I found the 90-minutes less than a Wow and not nearly as funny as the dedicated Shatnerians all around me did, Shatner's animated delivery of reminiscences do confirm his expertise as an engaging raconteur.
Since the jokes and ruminations are amply illustrated with projections in the big moon that dominates the star filled blue sky background, Shatner's World escapes the stasis that is all too common when there's only one person on stage. Thus, his recollections about having to actually perform the role he was understudying is supplemented with a film clip of an interview with Christopher Plummer, the actor who's understudy he was — and whose captain he became. Another actor who became a Star Trek colleague, Patrick Stewart, also shows up in one of the projected sequences.
Shatner is on stage even before he makes his grand entrance to make the usual cell phone announcements entertaining. In deference to his octogenarian status, he wryly jokes about the possibility that people might be coming to the theater because “I’m at the age where people are dying. So they can say that maybe he’ll die and we’ll see him dying.” He follows this with a reassuring "But not tonight -- we don't have the insurance."
Death related ruminations come up again but the upbeat always wins out over the downbeat. His return to Montreal for his father's funeral prompts an amusing story about choosing a casket. He mentions his third wife's tragic death but instead of going into morbid details. His declaration declares that "life doesn't have to end when love is present" is accompanied by pictures of his happy current marriage. The only sign of mourning for his lost youth is the abundance of loving images of the handsome Captain Kirk.
New York stage reminiscences include the trajectory of The World of Suzie Wong (1958) from a flop from which audiences exited a whole row at a time to a 500-run hit. Seems the actors hated being in the play as much as audiences hated watching it and in desperation began to diddle around with the pace of their line delivery. This turned out to be more to the audience's taste.
The ease with which Shatner jumps all over his autobiographical time line helps to keep things lively and enables this youthful senior citizen to sandwich in the many interests he's pursued. That includes his love of show horses, which he still rides, and leads to his bidding us adieu with a song.
In case you don't get to see Shatner's World at the Music Box, and if your city isn't on his tour line-up, there are always the memoirs from which some of this show's material is undoubteldy culled: Up Till Now: The Autobiography, Shatner Rules: Your Guide to Understanding the Shatnerverse and the World at Large and Star Trek Memories.
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