By Ian Nott
MJ Wilson knows how to make an entrance albeit an understated one. He parted the maroon curtains of the Butterfly Club stage on Monday night with panache and a wide welcoming smile. He has gliding, wistful way of moving on the stage and the audience was immediately engaged.
MJ explores a myriad of topics that range from dating, horses, psychologists and Vladimir Putin to name but a few. There is passion as MJ mulls over these topics accompanied by very funny stage antics.
He punctuates the show with numbers from the pop female icons – Oliva Newton-John, Kylie and Madonna. His versions of their classic songs hit the mark. It is his gentle, lilting voice and pausing that makes his delivery so original and interesting.
I couldn’t help feeling he was channelling Björn Ulvæus from our favourite band from the 1970s, ABBA, with his blonde hair and sweeping parting across his eyebrows. His quiet and gentle delivery and his many dramatic pauses made me think of the sort of showmanship we loved from Bjorn back in the day. MJ smiled cheekily and owned the stage just like it should be, just like Bjorn showed us!
It is the continuous soundtrack that is the foundation of this 55-minute cabaret performance that made it great night of cabaret. A cleverly crafted soundtrack that acts as a counterpoint to his many vignettes on stage was definitely the highlight. It had bells, whistles, pumping music, street noise, synth keyboarding, voice overs and more. It almost acted as another character on stage. MJ skill as a performer was on show in that he had to keep up with the soundtrack and ensure that the counterpoint effect worked.
MJ Wilson decided to bring back his popular 2022 Fringe show Cabaret Night Fever for a 2023 season. It is a little bolder and a lot cheekier and perfectly suits the Butterfly Club set up.
One scene which touched on the subject of the search for love involved MJ use his sidekick Otto, an inflatable doll to explore such a topic. Otto was caressed, serenaded and physically manipulated – I will let you see for yourself what this entailed! Otto’s po-face was amusing as it found himself on the receiving end of MJ’s man-handling.
MJ comes across as an endearing person on stage. It is this charm that keeps the audience happy. He is self-effacing at times during his performance and goes to great pains in thanking us for welcoming him so warmly. He really does know how to read an audience.
MJ is a talented actor with TV and film credits (Blue Heelers, Welcome to Woop Woop). Cabaret Night Fever is curated by MJ in partnership with musical director Will Conyers (SS-Metaphor, Jesus Christ Superstar). The soundtrack was devised by MJ in collaboration with John Jenkins who has proven himself to be a master of putting every day sounds to this theatrical piece by blending different types of media.
If you are after a genuine and generous cabaret performer come along to meet MJ and be soothed by his natural stage persona and his interesting take on life’s craziness.