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Interview:
"Shatner's World" is a diverse place
 

By GARY GRAFF
for Journal Register Newspapers

» See more SOUND CHECK

Between TV, movies, books, music and ads, there's little that William Shatner hasn't done in show business.

But hitting the road with the one-man show "Shatner's World: We Just Live in It" has taken the man indelibly branded as Captain James T. Kirk -- boldly, of course -- where he hasn't gone before.

"I have lots of friends in music and comedy who get on their buses and in their cars and pack their suitcases and all of that, but I've never toured before," says the Montreal-born Shatner, 81, who in addition to "Star Trek's" Kirk has also portrayed the TV cop T.J. Hooker and flamboyant attorney Denny Crane on "Boston Legal," which earned Shatner both Emmy and Golden Globe awards.

These days he's also known as Priceline.com's celebrity spokesman and host of the Bio channel interview series "Shatner's Raw Nerve."

"This has been an adventure," Shatner says of the 15-date trek, which follows a three-week run earlier this year on Broadway and closes this week at the Detroit Opera House. "It's not so much what I wanted to say, (but) I wanted to entertain. I wanted to be funny, but funny is good when it's placed in context with things that are...interesting and meaningful.

"So you've got a variety of places you want to go that lead you into things like talking about what is comedy and what is music and 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' and what is the journey of life and what is love and what is hate and what is the meaning of death. What's music? What's 'Star Trek?' Where are you going?

"It gets a little deep and maybe a little...out there. But hopefully it's enjoyable at the same time."

The two-hour, multi-media "Shatner's World" production -- which he acknowledges was a "nerve-wracking" proposition at first -- surveys the star's entire life, including a tribute to his clothing manufacturer father and even video of a youthful Shatner as an understudy for Christopher Plummer in "Henry V" at the Stratford Festival. His famous characters appear in the show, as do other figures in his career. He also talks about passions such as breeding American quarter horses.

"That variety of subjects I approach began to cascade on me," says Shatner, who began performing "Shatner's World" last year in Australia, then took it through Canada before hitting "Broadway," "tightening" and "sharpening" as he went along. "I realized what an enormous amount of subjects were open to me, and it surprised me that I could approach those subjects with stories that I was able to tell.

"It's a growing, living thing. And as I begin to understand what I'm doing it gets better and better because I have more insight into it. And people like it; they stand and applaud, which is very rewarding."

Shatner acknowledges the Capt. Kirk role's dominance in his life, and while it's something he once resented he said that seeing someone else in the Starship Enterprise -- specifically Patrick Stewart as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard -- gave him a different perspective on the part.

"Here was this Shakespearian actor, like I was, and he took (Picard) very seriously," explains Shatner, the four-times married father of three who published an autobiography, "Up Till Now," in 2008 and "Shatner Rules" in 2011. "It got me thinking. I said, 'What's the matter with you? Get off your high horse! ('Star Trek') is a phenomenon and you're part of it. Be proud of that.' And I am."

"Shatner's World" also touches on his music career, which includes the notorious spoken-word album "The Transformed Man" from 1968 -- featuring recitations of the Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" and Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" -- and well-received recent fare such as "Has Been," Shatner's 2004 collaboration with Ben Folds, and last year's "Seeking Major Tom," a rock covers album on which he was joined by guests such as Sheryl Crow, Peter Frampton, Brad Paisley, Alan Parsons and others.

"The music...has been all about being brave enough to say 'yes' even though it's easier to say 'no,' " Shatner explains. "I said 'yes' to the opportunities I was given to make music because I love music, and to learn that you can fail. You have to allow yourself the chance to fail in order to succeed later on. That's true of anything, I think."

Shatner hasn't filmed the "Shatner's World" show yet but says "we intend to in the near future. It'll be a (TV) special somewhere." Meanwhile, he has "a lot of things cooking," including his annual Hollywood Charity Horse Show for children's and veteran's funds later this month and a documentary called "Fanaddict" that will air in September. He'd also like to do another music project, "this time come up with a concept and instead of cover songs do original songs."

But for the next few days, "Shatner's World" is his primary concern. "I may not do this again, you know," says Shatner, who when he was younger took part in an archery competition at Cobo Arena. Typical show-biz hucksterism? "Well, maybe. But I may die (at) any time. Detroit is the last city on the tour, so your ticket may be valuable, you know."

William Shatner appears in "Shatner's World: We Just Live In It" at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 19, at the Detroit Opera House, 1526 Broadway St. Tickets are $55-$300. Call 313-237-7464 or visit www.michiganopera.org.

Web Site: www.michiganopera.org

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