Tag Archives: Luke Bayer

Diva Live from Hell

Diva: Live From Hell!


The Turbine Theatre

DIVA: LIVE FROM HELL! at the The Turbine Theatre



Diva Live from Hell

“Brilliantly performed by Luke Bayer who is having a devilishly good time”


In Dante Alighieri’s ‘The Divine Comedy’, the Underworld is divided into nine ‘circles’ in which sinners were punished in relation to their crimes. The treacherous and fraudulent would find themselves in circles eight or nine, for example. The Seventh Circle was reserved for the sins of violence. This is where we find Desmond Channing, a rather deranged but endearing teenager who is forced into an eternal residency at Hell’s hottest nightclub to retell his tale, night after night. His life was short and his descent into madness rapid. Desmond’s fearless craving for the limelight swiftly morphs into the unthinking terror of a rabbit in the headlights.

The insanely talented Luke Bayer croons through the overture by way of introducing us to the Seventh Circle Cabaret Bar. Bayer is so completely at home you wonder what sins he’s hiding up his sleeves, but a cheeky wink betrays an innocent nod to the fourth wall. This is fantasy, it is fun, and Bayer is relishing every minute. His charm is as infectious as his voice is gorgeous.

We are taken back to the Florida high school where Desmond was president of the ‘Ronald Reagan Drama Club’. He is musical theatre personified. Bayer unselfconsciously and candidly celebrates all the faults and foibles of this particular character (Nora Brigid Monahan’s script is wickedly insightful) as he struts and frets. He is a bit of a paradox; he’s diffident but oh, such a diva! He thinks he’s the king, but he’s such a drama queen. He’s in love with the sexiest girl in the class, but it is clear his interests lie elsewhere. Into his confused life and mind saunters Evan Harris, the cool kid from New York City. Evan steals his girl, his role in the school’s musical, his presidency and ultimately his sanity.

Bayer moves seamlessly between the characters, evoking each with an individualism that relies purely on expression and tone. He pours irony over Evan’s swagger, and charm over the endearing ‘best friend’ Allie Hewitt – the voice of reason; while his Principal Dallas has a playful mix of officiousness and pseudo-sympathy. He not only plays them, but sings them too. The score focuses on Desmond, but the bit parts also have their moments at the microphone. “Strong” is a wonderful number which has Bayer interacting with the house band and teasing the ‘earnest’ singer-songwriter paragon. “The Big Time” reveals another threat in Bayer’s skill set as he nimbly tap dances across the floor. Equally nimble is his hold on the songs, which ooze ‘joie de vivre’. Alexander Sage Oyen’s music and lyrics don’t stray too far from the catchy, pop genre but manage to balance perfectly the upbeat with the ballads, and the anger with the melancholy. It is refreshing, also, to see a show that actively acknowledges the onstage musicians; a skilful trio made up of musical director Debbi Clarke on keys, with Jonnie Grant on drums and Ben Uden on guitar and bass.

Just when we’re wallowing in the whimsical, offbeat rhythms of the night we are given a glimpse of the darker side, and the real reason Desmond is confined to his place in the Inferno. A difficult moment to stage in a space such as the Turbine Theatre, but director Joe McNeice pulls it off, with Alistair Lindsay’s deceptively simple lighting. We are back in Hell, where we started. Desmond has earned his diva title.

Clever, entertaining and deliciously camp, “Diva – Live from Hell” is increasingly uplifting the further it descends into the depths. Brilliantly performed by Luke Bayer who is having a devilishly good time. And so are the audience. The only danger is we might start believing that Hell is so much fun, we’ll all want to become sinners!



Reviewed on 19th August 2022

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Harry Elletson



Previously reviewed at this venue:


My Son’s A Queer But What Can You Do | ★★★½ | June 2021
My Night With Reg | ★★★★ | July 2021


Click here to read all our latest reviews





The Other Palace



The Other Palace

Reviewed – 15th July 2022



“Hannah Benson’s immersive staging bubbles with an energy”


There is, and always has been, debate about the purpose or usefulness of demographic tags. But whether we like them or not, or whether they influence an individual or a group of personalities, the labels are here to stay.

If you are a ‘Millennial’ you witnessed the 9/11 terrorist attacks that shook the world, and were likely to be old enough to comprehend its historical significance. You grew up in the shadow of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; you will have watched the erosion of the global political climate. Reaching adulthood, you would have walked headlong into the height of an economic recession. And the internet has pretty much always been there for you.

Is this significant?

If you are a ‘Millennial’ (according to psychologists) you are likely to be confident, but also confused. You are tolerant, but have an overblown sense of entitlement. You are generous, but at the same time narcissistic. In other words, you merely possess the contradictions that make us human.

Elliot Clay has written a song cycle that tells these Millennials’ stories. But he runs up against the same problems. For the most part they come across as merely human stories; under the Millennial banner. And it is a banner that is waved flamboyantly. Colourful yet superficial. There is little that earmarks a Millennial’s ownership of the subject matter. So we are left with a song cycle. And there is nothing wrong with that. Clay has composed some very fine numbers here. But a trick has been missed, and what is slightly frustrating about the show is the awareness that some sort of thread could have been weaved into the overall concept; or something to bind the characters into some sort of collective. To give them a real, solid context or journey.

Fortunately, that reservation in no way extends to the presentation. Hannah Benson’s immersive staging bubbles with an energy that sweeps aside the misgivings and allows us just to have fun. Andrew Exeter’s design matches, and supersedes, the sheer pizzazz. The Other Palace is transformed into a candied, Wonka-like, emporium. Part disco, part adventure playground; shimmering with colours that overflow with e-numbers. You can taste the sweetness of the set.

The performances are the main attraction. Despite most of their energy being channelled into Tinovimbanashe Sibanda’s slick choreography, the cast of six unleash their glorious voices to the crowd with the dynamism and craftmanship befitting the cream of Musical Theatre. Clay’s songs and lyrics are given the starry treatment and they have the appeal to stand their ground, but “Millennials”, as a show, lacks the cohesive ingredients to ensure a similar longevity. But as a gig, it’s a pretty good night out.



Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Mark Senior



The Other Palace until 7th August


All our reviews this month so far – click to read:

I Can’t Hear You | ★★★★ | Theatre503 | July 2022

The Hive | ★★★ | Hoxton Hall | July 2022

Report to an Academy | | Old Red Lion Theatre | July 2022

Barefoot in the Park | ★★★★ | The Mill at Sonning | July 2022

Flat and Curves | ★★★★★ | Toulouse Lautrec | July 2022

Hungry | ★★★★★ | Soho Theatre | July 2022

Pennyroyal | ★★★★ | Finborough Theatre | July 2022

Shit-Faced Shakespeare: Romeo & Juliet | ★★★★ | Leicester Square Theatre | July 2022


Click here to see our most recent reviews