Review: DIVA: LIVE FROM HELL, King's Head Theatre

A delightfully devilish show

By: Jun. 10, 2024
Review: DIVA: LIVE FROM HELL, King's Head Theatre
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Review: DIVA: LIVE FROM HELL, King's Head Theatre

“I’m finally a star but only when I talk about him”

DIVA: Live From Hell, a musical inspired by All About Eve, has arrived at the King’s Head Theatre. Directed by Joe McNeice with a book and characters by Nora Brigid Monahan and music and lyrics by Alexander Sage Oyen, the one-man musical brings us into the eternal punishment of Desmond Channing (Luke Bayer), a high schooler from Florida who is forced to reenact the final few months of his live in a cabaret-style performance. 

Bayer enters the stage in an outfit fit for a diva like Desmond Channing - glittering jeans and abright red blazer with feathers. We are welcomed into the Seventh Circle of Hell, where Desmond is performing once again. While alive, Desmond was the President of the Ronald Reagan High School Drama Club, a role he was incredibly passionate about - as proven by the brick of a manifesto he throws at a member of the audience. 

But Desmond isn’t the only role that Bayer takes on. During the show, he plays a range of characters, including Desmond’s rival, Evan Harris, a classic “frat bro.” It is incredible to see just how easily Bayer is able to switch between Desmond and Evan, going from diva to bro within seconds. Another role Bayer plays is Allie Hewitt, the shy and sweet stage manager who has been harbouring a crush on Desmond for years, regardless of how cruelly he treats her. There are several moments in which the audience is more on Allie’s side than Desmond’s, which does a great job of showing just how fantastic Bayer is at becoming different people within the same show. 

Along with his acting chops, Bayer is able to prove just how fantastic of a singer he is with the songs that Desmond is belting out nearly 24/7. Desmond may be a diva, but he certainly can sing! As to be expected from a campy musical like this, there are plenty of theatre references for the audience to laugh at throughout. There is a fantastic moment in which Desmond channels his inner Elphaba, a waving cape behind him and a witch hat floating on a stick above his head (the stage hand is wearing a skeleton suit, a wonderful little detail that shows how much love is put into the details). When discussing iconic enemies, Desmond discusses Hook and Peter Pan, Javert and Jean Valjean and even Glenn Close and Patti LuPone

One of the higlights of the show is how Bayer interacts with the band on stage, especially Debbi Clarke, who is not only the keyboardist but the Musical Director as well. There are several moments throughout the show where Bayer and Clarke stand off, particularly one bit in which he is telling her to change the key of the song so that it is easier for him to sing, and another in which he makes her vamp so that he can have some water. There are fewer interactions with Jonnie Grant (Percussion) and Ben Uden (Guitars), but they are still fun nonetheless. There are also some great ad-libbed quips to the audience, especially when he is taking breaks to grab a quick sip of water (I can only imagine how exhausted Bayer must be by the end of the show!).

Ultimately, DIVA: Live From Hell is a delightfully devilish show that lets Bayer shine in the spotlight as the dead diva Desmond Channing.

DIVA: Live From Hell runs until 29 June at King’s Head Theatre.

Photo Credit: Danny With A Camera


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