William Shatner on Broadway: What did the critics think?
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William Shatner’s career sometimes seems as bizarre as the actor himself. The seemingly perma-tanned actor who originated the role of Captain Kirk, spawning legions of Trekkers and ‘Star Trek’ spinoffs, has a Shakespearean stage background, won an Emmy for his portrayal of a morally loose lawyer in “The Practice” and attacked overpriced hotels as the Priceline Negotiator.
The actor, who’s wed four times, has shared hundreds of onscreen kisses and has been killed 19 times (most recently he died in a fiery tourist bus explosion in a Priceline ad). He delivers many of his screen roles and personal interviews with his signature staccato pauses, all questioning where the act ends and Shatner begins.
The 80-year-old boldly returned to Broadway for the first time in half a century, and this time he’s flying solo. ‘Shatner’s World: We All Just Live in It” opened Thursday for a brief run at the Music Box Theatre ahead of a monthlong, 15-city U.S. tour that includes a stop at the L.A.’s Pantages Theatre March 10.
Shatner’s show takes audiences on a almost two-hour voyage through his life and career, splitting the time between self and self-parody.
The first reviews from New York were mixed -- some critics enjoyed the short journey into Shatner’s galaxy while others were turned off by a world made for one.
Time Out New York’s David Cote praised the actor’s performance: “Shatner is genteel, funny and an amusing storyteller” and even though he kept the “Star Trek” talk to a minimum, “you can bet that Trekkies will flock to the show like Tribbles on a starship bridge.”
A less enthused Joe Dziemianowicz of the New York Daily News wrote that ‘World’ felt like ‘an extended sales pitch for Shatner as an icon’ and the show lacked ‘structure, flow or overarching theme during its 90 minutes, so it meanders. Like my attention.’ He wrote that overall, ‘Shatner’s World’ was a show only ‘die-hard Trekkies’ could love, ‘others, not so much.’ The Hollywood Reporter’s Frank Scheck had a different take on the Trekkers, writing that while being a fan is almost certainly a prerequisite, “the octogenarian actor … is such an engagingly hammy and funny raconteur that only the most curmudgeonly will begrudge him this celebration of his life and career.’
Charles Isherwood of the New York Times wrote the show proved adequate in terms of self-effacing humor and career chronology: ‘Despite the absurdly (joshingly?) self-aggrandizing title, Mr. Shatner shows a welcome tendency to poke fun at himself….’ Adding that, “one comes away from ‘Shatner’s World’ … with a thorough grounding in virtually all phases of Mr. Shatner’s career.’
Entertainment Weekly’s Darren Franich also had a harsh review, writing that while “undeniably fun,” the “most telling moments of the show come when the lights dim, and the onstage video screen plays Shatner’s greatest hits” with Shatner watching Shatner. “He’s his own best audience. It’s Shatner’s show: We’re just living through it.”