Hello Kitty Must Die @ Pleasance Courtyard

An audacious adaptation of the cult novel of the same name, Hello Kitty Must Die fails to make a decisive statement

Review by Sophia Hembeck | 14 Aug 2023
  • Hello Kitty Must Die

This daring and audacious musical boasts an impressive lineage, based on the cult novel from Angela S. Choi (now Kate Kamen) and nurtured by the creative minds behind the hit production Six. Defying the saccharine charm of Hello Kitty aesthetics with a chilling undercurrent of dark comedy, it parodies and deconstructs stereotypes surrounding East Asian femininity.

The curtains rise on a powerful lineup of five American performers of East Asian heritage with sleek hair, dressed all in black with hints of pink, poised in formation. Fiona Yu (Sami Ma) serenades a purple dildo, called Mr Happy, which she trusts to finally relieve her from her 30-year-long virginity. She is determined to dismantle the reductive clichés that pervade her existence in a white-dominated world. Amidst familial pressures and her father's matrimonial aspirations, she's resolute in carving her own path. “Have you ever heard of a 30-year-old female Asian-American serial killer?” she smirks. 

Reconnecting with her old friend Sean, who once taught her to confront bullies with a lunchbox filled with rocks, Fiona's drive for self-determination takes a decidedly darker turn. The versatile cast, including talents like Jully Lee, Amy Keum, Lennox T Duong, and Ann Hu, skillfully take on a range of characters, from Fiona's father and grandmother to the men she encounters through matchmaking. Cecilia Lin's musical composition infuses a captivating rhythm into the show, though the songs, which include barely memorable lyrics, might not be instant hits. The set design is reminiscent of a rehearsal stage; the performers drink out of plastic water bottles to indicate fancy cocktail drinks, thus making the show feel unpolished.

The core concept is undeniably robust and is brought to life by a charming cast that delivers with gusto. Yet, despite its promise, the romantic comedy turned murder-mystery plot twist is not distinct enough. Fiona’s murdering spree seems to randomly happen to her. The change in her character is barely visible in Sami Ma’s interpretation of the role and so she loses the audience’s confidence in the humour of the story; what could have been a fun villainess a la Killing Eve feels rather timid and undecisive. Hello Kitty Must Die is a show that possesses the potential for greatness but leaves a lingering sense of what might have been. 

Hello Kitty Must Die, Pleasance Courtyard (Pleasance Two), until 27 Aug, various times, returns only