William Shatner talks about "Star Trek" and more at the Buell Theatre - Reverb

Live review: William Shatner in “Shatner’s World” @ the Buell Theatre

William Shatner's world is an oddly comforting place, at least for a couple hours at a time. Photo courtesy of Joan Marcus.

William Shatner's world is an oddly comforting place, at least for a couple hours at a time. Photo courtesy of Joan Marcus.

It’s tempting to say that William Shatner surprised his diehard fans at the Buell Theatre on Tuesday as part of “Shatner’s World: We Just Live In It,” a one-man show that debuted on Broadway and is now touring the country.

Yes, the erstswhile Captain Kirk and Priceline.com pitchman enjoyed a few moments of genuine transgression — making a relatively edgy terrorist joke, cursing like a sailor, screaming and lifting a solid-metal roller-chair over his head. But it was mostly what we expected from this loquacious and famously nutty Emmy-winning actor and pop culture icon.

The lasting delights came in the quieter, more nuanced moments where he showed his humanity while talking about mortality, his family and, yes, horses.

To be sure, Shatner is more than just an aging punchline and corny spoken-word “musician.” The 80-year-old’s acting career extends far back from the “Star Trek” franchise to films, Broadway, live TV and even radio dramas. It was clear we were in for a long night (two hours, to be exact, only a sliver of which was occupied by video clips) when Shatner immediately went into great detail about his early days, from summer camp plays to sharing the stage with Christopher Plummer in Canadian Shakespeare productions.

Against a tasteful backdrop — a starfield curtain, a projection screen (usually filled with another cosmic scene or photos and video clips), and minimal stage dressing that included a couple of tables, chairs and books — Shatner prowled the stage like a lopsided cat, fire in his eyes and belly, the words coming fast and furious. Even at 80 years old (and, we might add, a mile above sea level) his energy never seemed to flag.

The show was part stand-up, part monologue, part memoir. Shatner employed an adjustable office chair throughout the show as, variously, prop, foil, set dressing and even motorcycle. He sometimes tripped over his words, but that’s hardly a sin when it was so infrequent and coming from an overall enthusiastic performance. And yes, if you were there to hear about “Star Trek” and see him contort into some hilarious positions, you were rewarded.

Really, anyone worried about a phoned-in performance would have been greatly relieved. And it was a lightning storm compared to the playful but rushed tone of John Waters’ RMCAD show a couple weeks back. Sure, Shatner’s a born performer with decades of experience, but anything less than a tour-de-force would have negated the ticket price and venue.

It was too much of a good thing at times, as Shatner spent dozens of minutes talking about the horses he breeds, raises and shows, or the various semi-famous people he has worked with over the years.

But there’s something reassuring about an old war horse like him riding to the front of the stage, snarling and laughing, raising his hands to the heavens and daring to bathe himself in equal amounts of self-aggrandizement and earnest sentimentality. The show worked splendidly, both as a potentially risky entertainment venture and summation of a Hollywood long-timer’s career.

Say what you want about Shatner, his roles, the choices he has made — the man is deeply committed to making people pay attention to him. And anyone at the Buell Theatre on Tuesday was a little better off for it.

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John Wenzel is an A&E reporter and digital media editor for The Denver Post and the author of “Mock Stars: Indie Comedy and the Dangerously Funny” (Speck Press/Fulcrum). Follow him @johntwenzel and @beardsandgum.

  • Jameskirschner

    William Shatner is quite simply a master of his craft. He has the depth of creativity and talent that marks a man of infinite scope. His physical dimension and attraction throughout the years is underscored by his unique sense of timing and timbre. The quintessential actor in my estimation.
    It’s a long story on my part. But I am still a SAG card carrying member of the union and my name indeed reads :  James T. Kirke

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/VTWEIKBDVG4JLSFHRECIHC7AWA Anonymous

    Sounds like GREAT FUN !!!     Here, here !!!    Wish I was there.

  • http://twitter.com/supervisor194 Codename: Gary Seven

    Saw the Shat last night in Dallas. My thoughts on his show: Everyone here already knows the kind of stuff he said. A few new things to me but mostly things I’ve read before So I won’t comment on the show but will make observations on the experience.
    As a musician I’ve sat in the pit many times playing a show but never to see a show. Pretty cool. I was literally on the front row right underneath him all night.
    Some other observations….that stupid xylophone ring tone that famously brought a New York Philharmonic performance to a halt a few months ago needs to be banned. Or wait,…maybe people need to turn their phones off. Right in the middle of a touching story of a beloved horse he owned that dumb tremolo of a D and an E going off. Embarrassing. Sorry Shatner. I apologize for Dallas that night.
    Also,…last time I was at the Majestic in Dallas I saw Frank Gorshin do his one man show of “Say Goodnight Gracie”. I talked to Frank backstage afterward and I told him the sound system didn’t do him any favors. He said “That sound system sucks!” He was right. That was nearly ten years ago and it still sucks! C’mon Majestic. Hire an acoustician and fix that thing. It’s a great old historic theater. Get the sound up to date. Maybe get Dr. Sevrin to help. Or is it just the problem of nobody knows how to mix a soundboard anymore? Cranking the bass up to 11 doesn’t work for everything, every show, every time.. We’ve lost all sight of what a good mix I believe.
    Other thoughts, many tried to yell Happy Birthday to Shatner at the start of the show. After many people doing it he gently told the crowd, “Thank you, and let’s let that be the last interjection of that during the show.” They complied and we sang Happy Birthday to him at the end of the night. Complete with a cake.
    One final note, I saw David Lee Roth perform in a little club with a Van Halen cover band backing him up almost 15 years ago. At the time I thought he worked harder than I’ve ever seen anyone work. No break,… like a man possessed. One song after the other. I saw Bernadette Peters in Gypsy working like a warrior on stage with that little body. Incredible energy output. And I’d put Shatner up there as hard working performers on stage too. Kind of made me nervous at times. Was afraid he might fall or hurt himself. Man! He’s got energy for a man his age.
    It was good to see him and he sure still looks good for 81. Heck for 60 he looks good. I’m glad I saw him in my area.