How Time Flies: An Evening with William Shatner - Massey Hall, Toronto - November 3rd, 2011

Review by Mike Bax
Photos by Sara Collaton

Curated by Toronto's own Alan Cross, William Shatner's speaking engagement touched down at Massey Hall last night, marking the 5th stop on the tour. Before the show started, a small video screen that would prove to be an integral part of the evening’s two and a half hour show, spiralled messages of corporate sponsorship and showed pictures of available merchandise downstairs at the venue, including a shirt with the phrase 'Holy Shat' on the front.  It also featured an image of Shatner in his now famous 'Priceline' pose, looking like he's ready to levy a kung-fu chop on the viewer.

The engagement was partially sponsored by the Toronto Star, where Shatner recently did a stint as a guest editor for their Entertainment Section.  At 7:30pm Toronto Star columnist Rob Salem introduced the star of the show, proclaiming loudly that "William Shatner Changed the World" and listed "1st inter-racial television kiss' among Shatner's many accomplishments. Salem then introduced the National Film Board clip of "O Canada" - a five-minute clip filmed to celebrate Bill's Lifetime Achievement Award from Canada's Governor General as one of his favourite things that Shatner has ever done. After seeing the clip, I'd have to agree… it's one of the cleverest pieces of film I've ever seen. You can watch the clip HERE.

After a round of laughter and applause, Alan Cross took the stage and gave a short intro to William Shatner, and then they sat down together for a two-part retrospective on Shatner’s life, complete with culled video footage and still photos spanning his entire years. Cross is one of Canada's very own national treasures - being a local radio celebrity and self proclaimed music aficionado - and has a natural interviewing style developed over decades of interviewing celebrities. Throughout the night he steered the assorted stories of Shatner's life, from his early days as a Montreal McGill University student through to his most recent work as an author and musician.

Love him or hate him, one cannot refute the impact William Shatner has had upon our pop culture landscape. While he is most renowned for his role as Captain Kirk from the sixties television show spin-off movies through the eighties, Shatner has celebrated Emmy recognition for his role on Boston Legal and won accolades for his performance for Sh#t My Dad Says.

Shatner commenced by talking about his flight to Toronto on Air Canada. He admitted that it was a great airline and that he had a good flight, but the customs agent baffled him by taking an extended look at his passport and asking, "Is this really you?" When Shatner replied with a yes, the agent said, "Wow! How time flies!" which segued nicely into his performance.

Shatner tapped on many touch-points that cemented his life - his early days in theatre, his move to Stratford for the summers and working as Christopher Plummer's understudy - an opportunity that allowed him to flourish when he was unexpectedly asked to fill in for an ailing Plummer during a run of Henry V. He talked about his early admiration for motorcycles and interest in equestrian riding (and eventually breeding), then moving through the Star Trek years and onwards to his flourishing persona through the nineties and into the new millennium.

Throughout the evening, which was filled with numerous laugh-out-loud moments, both live on stage and from excerpted television clips, Shatner revealed a layer of humanity not often associated with his persona. His dialogue around his parents and his past relationships was caring and touching, revealing a loving and generous side of himself of which I was previously unaware.

The evening wrapped with some dialogue around Shatner's more recent work with Ben Folds and his new album (Seeking Major Tom) and book (Shatner Rules) before standing up and delivering an impromptu, narrated hockey anthem and being presented with a Toronto Maple Leafs’ jersey with "Shatner 1" on the back of it.

Overall, his Toronto appearance was quite enjoyable and offered a unique opportunity to hear some great and interesting stories delivered in an up-close-and-personal fashion, complete with his rather unique candour.

If pressed, I'd say I laughed most at some archived footage presenting a Star Wars tribute in which the majority of the cast and creators from Wars were gathered in a room and Shatner walked onstage to offer an opening dialogue. After feigning that he’d incorrectly read the invitation and had appeared under the assumption that the evening was a Trek event, Shatner talked his way through 'My Way' to George Lucas, changing the lyrics up slightly to make them more poignant to the Star Wars creator, all the wile getting belly laughs from attendees like Harrison Ford, George Lucas and Carrie Fisher.