Diva: Live From Hell! – Turbine Theatre, London

Reviewer: Andrew Houghton

Director: Joe McNeice

Music and Lyrics: Alexander Sage Oyen

Book: Nora Brigid Monahan

Diva: Live From Hell! makes its European debut at Turbine Theatre following a successful New York run in 2017 .The production takes the form of a solo show by Desmond Channing at ‘The Seventh Circle’ – a cabaret venue in Hell where residents are forced to repeatedly perform their trauma. Diva: Live From Hell! showcases one (self-aware) cycle of Desmond’s life and the sins which led him to this point.

Appointed the new drama club president, Desmond starts the school year off on a high and getting cast as the lead in the Autumn production of The Pirates of Penzance is the cherry on top. Yet Desmond is ambitious to a fault and soon he develops an insurmountable jealousy of freshman Evan Harris, who not only is achieving previously unseen success for a freshman, but also has eyes for Desmond’s leading lady. Amidst the chaos, a Diva is born.

Luke Bayer is incredible in the role and anyone who follows his career knows his vocals are to die for. Matched with a catchy, highly entertaining set of show tunes by Alexander Sage Oyen, a cast recording would be very welcome. Where Bayer truly wins the audience, though, is with his comedy. He is hilarious as the cutting head b*tch everyone wants to be, armed with witty jabs and a wealth of theatre knowledge to weaponise. Yet he also takes every opportunity in his multi-role characters to make the audience howl with laughter. He plays on tropes and clichés (as is fitting for the camp style of the show) to create distinct characters which he is even able to sustain through song; it is truly skilful.

Joe McNeice, who is also director for the production, has done an excellent job of designing the space. Cabaret tables aptly adorn the sides of the glitzy stage, which is bathed in generous red washes, and recognisable American high school lockers stand at the back of the stage. Tech is used slickly to create the (under)world of the show and Bayer really leans into his Diva role, commanding the stage manager and live band to his every whim.

Diva: Live From Hell! is littered with references which will delight hardcore musical theatre fans and, for those who aren’t in-the-know, it ultimately feeds into to Desmond’s entertaining greater-than-thou delusion. With both cult and mass appeal, this production could easily become one of the most in-demand nights out.

 Runs until 10 September 2022

The Reviews Hub Score

Humorous and heartfelt

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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