Review: Live Welcome to Night Vale

On Saturday, we had the pleasure to go see the Welcome to Night Vale live at the Athenaeum Theater. I have mentioned previously that Welcome to Night Vale is one of my favorite podcasts; it’s the only fictional podcast that I listen to. When I heard it was coming to Chicago, I was so excited that I marked my work calendar so I could buy tickets the second they were available. We ended up front and center, which was pretty great.

I can’t go into great detail about the show since they asked us not to. (The episode is neat). But I’ll talk about the experience. The best thing was to actually see Cecil Gershwin deliver his radio. We were about 10 feet from him so we got see all of his facial expressions, his hand movements, and other body language. It was marvelous. Unsurprisingly, he brought a lot of energy to the show. There was also wonderful back and forth with various special guests that he had on the show.  The musical guest was pretty cool too.

But as much as I am happy to have gone, I felt something was lacking. I haven’t seen a lot of live broadcasts of radio programs but I can’t help to compare it to live RadioLab at the Chicago Theater in 2012. Now, I enjoy RadioLab but it’s not part of regular podcast rotation. Not sure why, but it’s not. The show was brilliant because they really worked with visual aspect of the show. The creators acknowledged that there were 1000 people in the audience and worked to make it interesting for them to see and listen. The episode focused on the eye so they had some wonderful pieces around it. They walked us through the evolution of the eyeball using a giant model and light. And there was a dance of the eyeballs, which was splendid. At the beginning, the theatre handed out little lights to all the audience members. At a designated time in the show, they turned down the lights, and we all turned on our little lights. It was a theatre of stars. Unforgettable.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with sitting and listening to audio collectively as an audience (Listening Rooms are incredible) but I think I expected more from live Welcome to Night Vale. They did do a nice job of bringing the audience into the show but I think they could have worked on the visual aspect. I’m not asking for a lot but I think the creators could have made it more interactive. There were posters outside the theatre about the dog park, the mayoral campaign, and the Sheriff’s Secret Police, which was a great start. But I think they can push the live experience.

Maybe with actual throat spiders or something.

Anyway, I’m happy I went and I’ll go again if they come back. I just hope that it’s a little bit more complete of an experience.


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