Interview: Joe Labero, illusionist

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The Swedish magician set to headline Resorts World Sentosa’s upcoming multi million-dollar theatre production, Incanto, tells Maina Harjani what it takes to be a successful illusionist

First published on 17 Sep 2012. Updated on 15 Oct 2012.

Resorts World Sentosa has found a replacement for Voyage de la Vie, which wrapped up a run of nearly two years in March. Its new production, Incanto, is headlined by Swedish magician Joe Labero, 49, who’s working closely with production company Danze Fantasy on his high-energy, multi million-dollar magic show, which features awe-inspiring illusions and breathtaking stunts courtesy of Shanghai’s Shenyang Acrobatic Troupe. Labero has spent most of his life touring and his debut show in Singapore will run for at least six months.

Incanto, which means ‘enchantment’ in Italian, traces the exploits of a young Traveller (played by local talent Oon Shu-Ann), who discovers an abandoned monastery and enters a forbidden world where she meets the Sorcerer (Labero). A showdown between good and evil ensues. We sat down with the Merlin Award-winning magician, who is already in town to begin preparations for the show’s unveiling in November.

Welcome to the Little Red Dot. Excited to be here? 
I’ve always wanted to come to Singapore. I have many friends who live here who rave about it. So after six months in Thailand, here I am.

You’re performing at the Festive Grand Theatre, which seats 1,000 people. Do you prefer a big or a small audience?
I must say I prefer smaller gigs, though the big shows are completely different. I did small shows in Las Vegas recently for about ten people. It was more intimate, everyone was sitting up close and was able to see me clearly.

What’s a trick that always leaves your audience baffled?
The linking finger rings always leaves them wanting more. I take three rings and link them together without using a finger. Even though it’s simple, it’s one of my strongest illusions.

How often do you introduce new tricks?
I believe in never changing more than 50 per cent of my tricks. I take the best of what I have and make it even better.

Did your parents approve of your passion for magic?
I grew up in a normal household but they weren’t familiar with this world that I’m in now. They inspired me, but all this entertainment and illusion was a little too much for them. Becoming an illusionist was my goal. I believed in what I did and I didn’t want to give up. That has been my secret and my key: I’ve never given up. If you believe in something, do it. There is no other way.

What other advice do you have for aspiring illusionists?
You must have the personality and a relationship with the audience. Communication and magic skills are also important, but foremost it’s the performance. You must make them see that you’re likeable.

You’ve been doing this for over 30 years. Any desire to do other things?
I have a few things in my head and I do have a lot of contacts around the world, so I could see myself producing shows. But I’m happiest when I’m on stage and I want to keep the magician in me until I’m old with grey hair. I met Tom Jones and Rod Stewart in America and at their age they’re still performing, so age is never a factor when it comes to performing.

In 2009, you received a Merlin Award from the International Magicians Society, which puts you in the same league as David Copperfield and Siegfried & Roy. What has been the standout moment so far in your career as an illusionist?
I always look forward to Le Sporting Club in Monaco. It’s very elegant, and the crowd there can’t applaud because they’ve got too many diamonds on their fingers. But I always feel honoured when I’m there. I hope to go back there next summer.

Tickets are available at Sistic for Incanto, to be held at the Festive Grand Theatre, Resorts World Sentosa, from 7 Nov-10 March 2013.

By Maina Harjani
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