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BWW Review: STARDUST at Chat Noir - Hilde Louise Asbjørnsen Gives Star Power on Every Level

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This show runs from July through October 2021

BWW Review: STARDUST at Chat Noir - Hilde Louise Asbjørnsen Gives Star Power on Every Level

BWW Review: STARDUST at Chat Noir - Hilde Louise Asbjørnsen Gives Star Power on Every Level It's hard to pinpoint what Hilde Louise Asbjørnsen's one-woman-show, titled "Stardust", truly is. It's presented as a kind of "TED Talk" with music, focusing on a small number of fascinating, strongminded women in the early age of jazz music. It's done through narration with anecdotes, portinons of songs infused with comedy and some choreography, accompanied by a three piece band. The mixture encapsulates into a great end result.

To foreign readers I would like to say a few words about Hilde Louise Asbjørnsen. She is a performer with a multitude of talents. She is a musician, actor, singer, comedian, author and has also done many musicals. She is no stranger to Kander and Ebb having done both Roxie Hart in "Chicago" as well the emcee in the recent revival of "Cabaret". In 2011 she played Ulla Inga Hansen Benson Yansen Tallen Hallen Svaden Swanson in the first Norwegian production of "The Producers". For me she was the 'saving grace' in a production of "Guys and Dolls" some years back, in which she played one of the funniest Miss Adelaide I have ever witnessed.

BWW Review: STARDUST at Chat Noir - Hilde Louise Asbjørnsen Gives Star Power on Every Level

But in "Stardust" she gets the audience's attention to talk about her passion, namely Jazz. More specifically the great women of Jazz and cabaret (Bessie Smith, Josephine Baker, Billie Holiday, Marlene Dietrich, Marilyn Monroe, Edith Piaf plus the underrated Norwegian Bokken Lasson. And she tells their stories in her own personal way focusing more on their strengths and rather quirky behavior in a man dominated age. It's also an important message to send to the younger crowd, that there has always been a strong-willed brilliant women who took what little they were given and made magic with it. It's easy to forget the existence of such individuals from the past in the ever going heated debate about women's rights and equality. These women chose not to be victims, not to be shamed for having talent, sexual urges and the craving for success.

BWW Review: STARDUST at Chat Noir - Hilde Louise Asbjørnsen Gives Star Power on Every Level

As stated earlier she presents their stories with lots of humor (it's totally fine with some over exaggeration of the actual facts in the name of comedy). She spices this with some simple dance moves (choreographed with fine simplicity by Mattias Carlsson). Highlights were Shimmy and Charleston. She even plays a saw at one point. Bizarrely done, but a great addition nonetheless.

With all these comical touches in the narration, it is always with an undertone of seriousness. These women lived at the peak of misogyny and racism. Her telling of their stories never tries to underplay the seriousness, but Asbjørnsen chooses to focus on their merits rather than on their victimhood. At one point, when she decides to read an actual article from a former Norwegian newspaper about Josephine Baker's visit to Norway, there were gasps in the audience as a response to the blatant racist words of this journalist. This makes me think how far we have come, thankfully.

BWW Review: STARDUST at Chat Noir - Hilde Louise Asbjørnsen Gives Star Power on Every Level Since this show is presented during a (hopefully over soon) pandemic there is a limit to how long the show can run. As a result the songs can never take up to much time, because there is so much narrative to get through. Under normal circumstances I would have liked it to be more singing, but I understand the choices that have been made to accommodate the running time. Hilde Louise Asbjørnsen's voice is beautiful. When you hear her normal speaking voice you would never dream of how big and booming it can get. It's raspy and deep when it needs to be, yet she also can sing in a much lighter tone with full control of her instrument, and I am impressed by how many facets her voice has.

Seeing her on stage is a good lesson in star power. It feels like she doesn't have to try - she just does, and she does it magnificently. Commanding the audience's attention, and holds it for those ninety minutes. She has co-written this show together with Teodor Janson, and it is a strong and wholesome script. Yet it never feels like a 'script', since everything seems like it's said in the moment. That is the sign of both great acting and the ability to make it interesting and lasting.

The stage design is very minimal yet elegant. There is some minor use of projections, but it never steals focus, and at one point rather moving. Cårejånni Enderud's costumes are sophisticated when they need to be and outlandish at the right moments. Anders Aarum's wonderful arrangements for the three piece band gives the perfect jazz feel this show craves. And finally the direction (by Mattias Carlsson and Teodor Janson) is done in such a way that it doesn't feel directed at all, which means they have done a good job in hiding it.

BWW Review: STARDUST at Chat Noir - Hilde Louise Asbjørnsen Gives Star Power on Every Level

I saw many faces in the audience in their fifties and upwards. Of course this is a show that age group will love, but I urge younger people to seek out this show, and learn about how these brilliant women made a career against all odds. It's important to see what could be done if you put your skillset to it. A great life lesson given by a woman with the same star quality herself!


STARRING:
Hilde Louise Asbjørnsen

CREATIVE TEAM:
Script: Hilde Louise Asbjørnsen & Teodor Janson
Directors: Mattias Carlsson & Teodor Janson
Choreography: Mattias Carlsson & Hilde Louise Asbjørnsen
Musical Arrangements: Anders Aarum
Costume Design: Cårejånni Enderud
Stage Design & Lighting Design: Alf Ove Fremmersvik
Lighting Design: Louise Lavoll
Projections: Tore Sergei Myklebust
Stage Photos: Tovita Razza

MUSICIANS:
Bandleader/keys: Anders Aarum
Bass: Jens Fossum
Drums: Hermund Nygård


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