Diva: Live From Hell! 
Rating: ★★★★★
Venue: King's Head Theatre, London
Cast: Luke Bayer

Following a critically acclaimed, sell out run at the Turbine Theatre, Luke Bayer gives a tour-de-force performance in this blood-stained love letter to Broadway; a solo musical about rivalry, vengeance, and killer ambition.

As president of the drama club and star of every school show, Desmond Channing spent most of his short life in the spotlight. When a rival student Evan Harris, a hotshot transfer from New York, challenges his throne, Desmond responds as any diva would, with lethal force...

A tasteful, hilarious piece of storytelling of a devilish dark Diva not getting their way.

Directed by Joe McNeice, Diva: Live From Hell!, is playing at the Kings Head Theatre until 29th June. I first saw this show back in 2022 at the Turbine Theatre, so I was very much looking forward to attend the press night for the return of this show. Luke Bayer is back as the lead in this one-person show, and just when I thought he couldn’t out-do his last performance, he proved me wrong. If I thought the show was good back in 2022, it is even better this time round.

The show is performed in an intimate setting which is an aspect I like, as I feel this show might get lost in a bigger venue. The staging of the production hasn’t changed much. However, the costumes from Pip Terry have far more glitter than previously! The staging and costumes are relatively simple, and it very much works for this type of show.

Luke Bayer performs all of the characters himself in this piece. Each character is so different and unique, you're never confused as to which character is centre stage. And to perform one of the songs with a lisp - there really is no limit to how much talent Luke has and this role really does show how skillful he is. The tap dance number is definitely a highlight of mine.

The story follows Desmond Channing. As president of the drama club at Ronald Reagan High School and the star of every school play, Desmond Channing spent most of his short life in the spotlight. But when Evan Harris, a hotshot transfer from New York, challenges his throne, Desmond responds, as any Diva would, with lethal force...

Now, stuck in the Seventh Circle, Hell’s most squalid cabaret venue, Desmond is forced to relive his disturbing tale of how he ended up in hell. By the end we realise we are in Desmond's own personal hell, where he has to tell his story over and over again. This is to make Desmond reflect on his actions and maybe realise his actions where wrong. However our Diva doesn’t see that way…yet.

Luke Bayer portrays five different characters and these are characters we can easily relate to, or ones we're familiar with, or even see within ourselves. Our leading character is Desmond himself, who at first is witty but eager to be a star, and very much enjoys being the centre of attention.

Evan Harris, the hot jock who transfers from another school and becomes an instant threat to Desmond. Then we have Allie (honestly I love this character, I just wanted to hug her) the best friend to Desmond, who clearly loves Desmond and is constantly searching for his approval. Then we have Sarah, the object of Desmond's desire; even though she instantly falls for Evan, which infuriates Desmond even more. And lastly we have teacher Mr Dallas. And I feel we all had a teacher like this; a little bit strange but in a harmless way.

This show will have you howling with laughter and then it will suddenly break you into two. The way Luke delivers each line, song and dance is exceptional and you can imagine all the different characters with ease.

I really enjoyed the musical theatre references, with a new “Wicked” scene featured in this run. Even small moments such as Desmond making a remark about stage management not being important and the lights instantly being turned off in the theatre. These moments worked really well and were so clever.

Now while the songs weren’t catchy enough for me to remember them (you can download the cast recording), they worked perfectly to fit in with the story. Luke's singing was devilish good; it just seems effortless and absolute perfection. There's a small band which consists of a pianist, percussion and guitars from the very talented Debbi Clarke, Jonnie Grant and Ben Uden. They truly bring the production together and allow the music and sound to compliment the story well.

I can not express how much people need to experience this show, it would be a sin to miss it.

You can book tickets to Diva: Live From Hell! at the King's Head theatre, here.

Review by Sarah

**photo credit: Harry Elletson**

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