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WSO: the final frontier?

Star Trek's George Takei making first visit here to host orchestra's science-fiction music concerts

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George Takei


George Takei

For a man whose name is synonymous with a television series that has won 31 Emmy awards and gained millions of dedicated followers, George Takei is very forgiving of people mispronouncing his surname.

"I don't object to the mispronunciation Ta-Kie, because there is a Japanese word pronounced Ta-Kie, which translates to English as 'expensive.' But I'm Ta-Kay, which doesn't mean cheap," Takei says.

Takei is best known for his portrayal of Lt. Hikaru Sulu in the original Star Trek series. Since then, he has starred in numerous movies and TV shows and has even done voice-over work for video games.

He is also an outspoken activist for LGBT rights -- he went public with his homosexuality in 2005 -- and against the internment of Japanese Americans in the Second World War. Takei was forced to live in such a camp in the United States when he was a child.

Takei will be visiting Winnipeg for the first time from Sept. 27 to 29 to narrate and host evenings of science-fiction music with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.

Takei says he's a big fan of classical music, but "this isn't quite like Tchaikovsky or Mozart. It's more in the pop vein."

Among the songs that will be played is Alexander Courage's Star Trek theme, a tune Takei is very familiar with, as it follows him wherever he goes.

"It's a glorious tune and I always enjoy it," he says of the song originally called Where No Man Has Gone Before. "I hear it frequently in non-symphonic halls, in night clubs, whenever I have a speaking engagement at a university the music comes on, or whenever I do a television interview or radio interview."

Takei said he has several connections to Canada, including a cousin who lives in Ottawa and another in Toronto. He's been all over Canada visiting those relatives, but this will be the first time he'll set foot in Winnipeg, and he plans to explore the city.

Beyond his work in TV and with orchestras, Takei also commands a huge following on social media. His Facebook fan page, where he regularly posts funny pictures and status updates, has more than four million fans. He originally launched the page to promote a soon-to-be Broadway show called Allegiance, A New American Musical, which centres around the internment of Japanese-Americans, but it has gone well beyond that.

"My base on social media was the sci-fi geeks and nerds, because of my Star Trek background. So I had to develop that into a larger audience base, and it kept growing and growing," he says.

He says the play is very close to him, and he's proud its San Diego run was extended by a week, thereby beating the 77-year-old box office and attendance record at the Old Globe Theatre where it was being staged.

"It bodes well for our opening on Broadway here next spring, and so that's what I'm proud of now," he says.

Takei said he's been on the orchestra-narration circuit for well over 10 years; this weekend the WSO will perform music from some of the most famous science fiction movies and TV shows of all time, including 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars and The Day the Earth Stood Still.

Also performing will be soprano Kristen Plumley and the Prairie Voices youth choir, directed by Vic Pankratz.

The conductor for the sci-fi concerts, Jack Everly, gets invitations to cities around North American from the local orchestras, and Takei usually goes with him.

"I have another one coming up in Baltimore, I think it's in February. Baltimore in February is not my idea of a pleasant place to be. Thank God it's in the summertime in Winnipeg, when you have nice long summer days," he says.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 26, 2013 C6

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