Now, he's returning to the stage in his 100-minute solo show, Shatner's World: We Just Live In It, which plays Broadway's Music Box Theatre, February 14-March 4, before embarking on a 15-city national tour. TheaterMania recently sat down to talk with Shatner about the show, his feelings about Broadway, his musical talent, and hosting Canada's Juno Awards.
THEATERMANIA: Tell me the difference between Shatner's World, the show, and William Shatner's real world.
WILLIAM SHATNER: Shatner's World the show, is a distillation of stories and aspects of my life that I think would be interesting to you. When you come to the theater, I'm going to entertain you, I'm going to make you laugh, cry, I'm going to make you cringe, I'm going to make you exult. I'm going to hopefully play the panoply of human emotions on you. My life is a little less than that.
TM: You don't do that in real life? You don't make your friends laugh and cry and cringe?
WS: Well, my wife only. And so there's a selection going on here that doesn't involve my taking a shower in front of you. I've had to look at stories about myself that were entertaining, that were illustrious, that might have some commentary on them. I've chosen those, and given it a theatrical aspect. We put that show on in Australia and Canada and it was a great success. And then Broadway beckoned, and we've made the show even better.
TM: You've talked about how this show is your return to Broadway in 50 years. But I can't believe that nobody's asked you back since then?
WS: They've asked me back, but I just said I can't do six months, or whatever that would be with rehearsal, because I'm very happy where I am in my life. And to be honest, working on Broadway eight shows a week for a limitless period of time is onerous. You have to really want the job. I want to perform in front of audiences in wonderful roles. And then I want it to end shortly afterwards, and then go on to the next thing.
TM: Do you not enjoy the idea of a long run?
Every actor, after you've done a show for about two months, knows the drill: you have the role down. You know the timing, you know where the audience is reacting, you know the words, you know what the other actors are doing, and you've sent emissaries to the other actors saying "Don't do that." And then it's time to leave, only the contract says "You've got another year to go."
TM: I've heard you're only singing one song in Shatner's World. Why so little singing?
WS: Because the unknown fact, the secret that I'm about to reveal, is that I can't sing! And so to repeat those songs I've recorded would have not been a wise matter. But I do play some parts of them, and at the end of the show, I sing "Real," which Brad Paisley wrote for me. That's the extent of my musical portion of the show.
TM: But you're a musical icon -- you've even been asked to host the Juno Awards in Canada on April 1. Are you keeping up with current music?
WS: No. But the fact that I know nothing should have no bearing whatsoever on my doing the show. Hosting an awards show is a balancing act, isn't it? I'm doing what that guy who walked on a high wire -- Philippe Petit -- has done, only if I fall, I fall to a much worse fate than my death. He at least would just splatter on the ground. I'm going to splatter in newspapers and televisions all over the world.