Last week I had the privilege of seeing a live show of the insanely popular Welcome To Night Vale at the Copernicus Center in Chicago. Going in, I was a little nervous, because I’m not up to date on Night Vale and it’s an incredibly plot-driven podcast. I like the show; I think it’s fun. But I’m not an obsessive, which can be hard because there are so many callbacks to previous episodes. I often find myself reaching back into the depths of my mind, trying to remember if it was Old Woman Josie or the Faceless Old Woman Who Lives in Your Home running for mayor against the literal five-headed dragon Hiram McDaniels.
It was clear when I arrived that I was more than a little bit out of the loop. There were dozens of people dressed in costumes, and more than once I found myself leaning over to my friend and asking, “Who is that supposed to be? Why is he covered in blood?” I dreaded being lost and confused the entire night, or worse, just falling asleep in the dark theater and missing the entire thing. I’m happy to report my fears were completely unwarranted.
I can’t share too much about the contents of the show without violating Commonplace Books’ no-spoiler rule, but I’ll do my best. Night Vale the podcast is a quiet, soothing, surreal experience. Night Vale the live show captured the weird spirit of the podcast without simply being another episode. British musician Mary Epworth opened, and though she wasn’t really my style, her psychedelic, grown-up Luna Lovegood feel was the perfect intro to the night. When the voice of Night Vale Community Radio, Cecil Baldwin, came out on stage for the first time, I thought I must have mistakenly entered a One Direction concert. That is, if One Direction consisted of one bald man wearing a three-piece tweed suit.
From that point on the show was a raucous good time, following the story of an incredibly non-traditional “Murder Mystery Dinner Theater.” For the sake of fans like me, it was a standalone story that didn’t require too much prior knowledge about the podcast. Don’t get me wrong—there was still plenty of fan service. Favorite characters, like Carlos, Perfect Carlos, and Deb, a sentient patch of haze serving as a spokesperson made appearances. And of course, it wouldn’t have been Welcome to Night Vale without the violent death of an intern.
The ninety minute show (three times the length of the normal podcast), never felt drawn-out, which was probably because it involved a lot of audience participation. Despite being one of 1,800 people in the audience, you became a main player in the show. Though the setup was the same as the podcast—Cecil sitting alone in his radio station—he took advantage of his corporeality, using physical humor to keep the audience engaged.
Overall, it was a great night, and I’m glad to have seen not only the show, but also the fans devoted enough to dress up as Eternal Scouts and Glow Clouds. If you missed the Spring Tour, Welcome to Night Vale will also be appearing at BookCon in New York City on May 30, but remember, do not approach the dog park.
Featured image via Tumblr user vandtree.