William Shatner brought his cross-Canada ‘How Time Flies” tour in for a landing last night (25/10/11) at Winnipeg’s Centennial Concert Hall
With a successful career in show business that spans 7 decades and counting, it was difficult to know what the legendary Canadian performer might have in store for his audience, but as the lights dimmed and the jumbontron lit up, it quickly became apparent the actor’s well known offbeat sense of humour was going to play a integral part in the night’s proceedings.
The performance opened with a video showing Shatner’s hilarious attempt at doing an interpretive reading of Canada’s national anthem, filmed as part of the celebration surrounding the Montreal, QC native’s receipt of the prestigious 2011 Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for lifetime achievement.
Music journalist Alan Cross (local boy makes good, originally form Stonewall, MB), took the stage, and introduced the world famous octogenarian, who entered to roaring applause, wearing a blue pinstripe suit, white open collared shirt, his youthful appearance belying his age.
Cross, and Shatner seated themselves on 2 silver easy chairs (the only props on stage asides from the big screen), and began a near 3 hour long discourse, broken only by a brief 20 minute intermission, about the actor’s life and career – which was the format used for the entire evening to good effect.
However, it was the man who gave the world the intrepid “Captain Kirk” of Star Trek, and “Denny Crane” of Boston Legal, who did almost all the talking, presenting Winnipegers with a wildly entertaining evening of anecdotes, jokes, musings, adlibs, songs, laughter, and tears, as he reflected upon on his long, storied life and career.
Unlike the deadly serious James T. Kirk or “Mad Cow” Denny Crane, Shatner the man is easy-going, fun loving and a charismatic storyteller who will toot his own horn in one breath, and tell a utterly self-deprecating joke in the next.
Early topics included the Charlie Sheen Roast, his love of horses, his early life in Montreal, his years as “the worst student ever” at McGill University, and days as a budding actor in theatre and movies.
There were no sacred cows, as Shatner took pot shots at fellow actors such as Spencer Tracy and Montgomery Clift in “Judgement at Nuremberg” (gives a bang on impersonation of Clift slurring his words, playing his “Nuremberg” role of mentally challenged witness “Rudolph Petersen,” and comments “thought it was great acting until I realized he was simply drunk throughout the entire film.”
He also got off plenty of zingers from his early days living with his parents in Montreal as struggled to find acting work, such as “I told my mother I’d been cast in the role of a Jewish husband. She said, ‘you call the producer and tell him you want a speaking part!'”
Ever the showman, Shatner ended the first half of the show, with a teaser about how an incident involving falling off a horse, led to his decision about how he would play the death scene of “Captain Kirk,”
Surprisingly, except for an occasional reference, Star Trek, barely gets touched upon in Pt 1.
The audience waited for the 2nd half with baited breath while buying Shatner swag, marketed steadily throughout the night, and also enjoyed a promo clip on Shatner’s recent documentary “The Captains.”
The 2nd half topic had at times a more sombre tone with topics including “Captain Kirk’s” death, the loss of his father during the filming of Star Trek, the pool accident death of his 3rd wife, as well as musings about his own mortality at age 80, “I’ve been staring death in the face for a while now, but one of these days it’s gonna be me who blinks – but not for a long-time yet!”
Though this more serious side of Shatner proved the most intriguing, he never let his stories and reflections become overly weighed down in morbid sentiment. Even the most tragic of tales had a bittersweet element, and contained a “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” twist ending as when a rag mag accused him of complicity in his 3rd wife’s death, and threatened to publish the story unless he gave them an exclusive.
Shatner revealed that he agreed to the blackmail for a hefty price, and used the money to build a foundation in his wife’s name, which has since helped hundreds of women overcome alcohol addiction.
Although Shatner touched on his music career briefly in his musings on “why it is important to say “yes” and “take risks,” asides from some video footage showing clips of song performances, he only performed 1 song live, and saved it until the very end of the night (very surprising since he just released a brand new studio album called “Seeking Major Tom.”)
And, after wrestling with mortality, loss and other profoundly intense subjects throughout the 2nd half, with what chestnut did Shatner grace the crowd (this enfant terrible who gave the world spoken word versions of “Mr Tambourine Man,” and “Bohemian Rhapsody”)?
Why Stompin’ Tom Connors’ “The Hockey Song” of course. Huh?
The choice might’ve been thought risky, quirky or downright nuts in some other city, but in Winnipeg, MB, the city which just got back it’s National Hockey League franchise after a 15 year absence, Shatner’s selection was a safe bet to send the crowd home ‘beaming” and did exactly that!
Did you know? William Shatner will be appearing in Winnipeg again on Sunday, October 30 (50/10/11) as part of the 2011 Central Canada Comic Con festivities.