Review: All Hail (Welcome to Night Vale – Live)

all hail

                      All Hail tour poster

Welcome to Night Vale‘s latest live show is All Hail, a tale about the one and only Mighty Glow Cloud (all hail). All Hail played the Carolina Theatre in Durham on April 14, 2017, and I had the chance to attend the show. It was my first ever Night Vale live show, and it couldn’t have been a better first experience. The atmosphere of the event was one of a large community; everyone had gathered there to see and participate in this theatrical event. There were people of all genders, races, and sexualities there and everyone was immediately accepted. People dressed up in costumes: there were Ericas (angels), Hooded Figures, Cecil’s and Carlos’s, and – my personal favorite – one person dressed up as Fey, the computer that read the numbers for the numbers station in episode 42 of the podcast. This is what greeted me as I arrived at the theatre; I hadn’t even entered it yet! Everyone was gathered outside in a waiting area and you could see all the costumes on display and everyone socializing and meeting new people. It was a beautiful moment. And then the doors opened.

cecil credit card

      Cecil accepts credit cards

Once inside, we were greeted by the merch table where we could buy t-shirts and posters and tote bags and CDs. The staff was all friendly and excited to be there. One thing stood out to me, though: there was a little drawing of Cecil on the wall informing everyone that credit cards are accepted. It was this cute, little thing, but it really made the table feel so special and so… Night Vale. Then we all entered the theatre itself, and the first thing I noticed is that it was really a gorgeous theatre. The Carolina Theatre had this quality of an older theatre, sort of small and lived in and full of history; perfect for a Night Vale performance. We all took our seats and waited for the show to officially begin. Several minutes after 8 – because when does a theatrical show ever start on time? – Meg Bashwiner, the voice of the Proverb Lady and Deb the sentient patch of haze – walked onstage to make her spiel about the various rules of the venue. Naturally, she did this with the trademark sarcasm that Night Vale is known for. Once she’s finished, the show properly began.

First up was Erin McKeown, the performance’s weather artist. She played a small set of five or six songs as a sort of opening act. I always find the weather segments in Night Vale to be a bit hit or miss, but Erin was simply amazing. She had this charisma and personality that shone from the stage the moment she walked on to it. She was really big on getting the audience to participate with her, having us clapping and singing call and responses – at one point, the audience started clapping on its own and she stopped us and said, “What beat are you clapping to?!” and then proceeded to make fun of us for our inability to hold a beat properly the rest of her performance. It was great. Her music itself was fantastic. It’s hard to describe what her music sounds like, so I’m just gonna say that you need to go look her up – she’s great. Her website can be found by clicking this!

Once Erin finished her set, the lights dimmed and Cecil Baldwin walked onstage to begin the show. I won’t say much about the plot here, we were asked not to give any spoilers for the show itself and I intend to respect that wish. However, I will say that it was an incredibly moving story. It’s very similar in style and structure to your usual Night Vale live shows – lots of audience interaction, a longer and more in-depth plot, guest appearances from characters. The script itself was brilliantly written, as always, by Jeffrey Cranor and Joseph Fink. In my opinion, having not yet heard last year’s Ghost StoriesAll Hail is the best Night Vale live show. It had everything that makes a good Night Vale Live show. It was moving and funny and engaging and poignant and creepy. The acting was superb, especially from Cecil. Cecil was given a lot of good material to work with in this show. He’s always good, but what he has to do in this particular story allowed Cecil to really show some of his acting chops while also clearly having a wonderful time. The joy that Cecil exudes when he’s on stage is infectious. The moment he walked on stage, the audience was filled with electric energy, and that energy never died down until the show had ended. Erin McKeown came back for the weather segment and played The Queer Gospel, which was amazing to witness given that this was a show happening in North Carolina. The audience adored her song so much, she got an enormous round of applause once she’d finished. It was a beautiful moment to behold.

That is all I will say about the contents of the show itself. Other than the fact that a lot of emphasis is put on the concept of being a good person is an active decision and not a passive one. Simply not being bad is not the same as being good; you have to actively do good things to be good. That ended up being a central theme of the show. I won’t say how or why that’s the case, but it was a really timely thing to hear. Cranor and Fink really cleverly worked in some social satire about current events into this show, and it worked really well.

All in all, All Hail was an amazing experience to see live. It’s such a different vibe than you get from just listening to the podcast, but it also feels very much the same if that makes sense. You get a stronger sense of community when seeing the show live, but it’s still that same weird and creepy story you’re used to hearing. Like all the other live shows, All Hail is very light on continuity so it’s very accessible to people who have never heard an episode of the podcast. It’s appropriate for all ages; it’s funny; it’s moving; it’s enjoyable. I recommend it to anyone who likes a good night at the theatre hearing an interesting story.

All Hail receives 5 out of 5 wands.

All Hail is currently touring the country (and later the world). Tour dates can be found at the Welcome to Night Vale website.

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