8 QUESTIONS WITH JOE LABERO

Singapore works its magic on Swedish magician Joe Labero

Swedish magician Joe Labero hopes to conjure up tricks incorporating chilli crab and chicken rice. -- PHOTO: KRALL ENTERTAINMENT
Swedish magician Joe Labero hopes to conjure up tricks incorporating chilli crab and chicken rice. -- PHOTO: KRALL ENTERTAINMENT

Swedish magician Joe Labero loves the buzz of the city - its food, culture, energy and efficiency

Magician Joe Labero's love affair with Singapore has brought him back here for the second time in two years.

He previously starred in Incanto, a theatrical magic production that ran from November 2012 to March last year at Resorts World Sentosa.

His production, A Night Of Magic At Raffles, which opened last month, will run till Oct 28 at Raffles Hotel. But he is in no hurry to return home - the three-time Merlin Award winner will stay on with his wife and six-year-old daughter until the end of the year.

The 51-year-old Swede says he is in love with the Lion City and also wants to give his family a break from his hectic travel schedule.

His fondness for Singapore began long before he performed here. He was here while in transit 20 years ago and, acting on a friend's recommendation, had chilli crab at Newton Food Centre. It has since become one of his favourite Singaporean dishes.

"It's tasty and fresh. You have to use a lot of napkins but it's fantastic," says Labero, who is already looking forward to coming back here next year.

In A Night Of Magic, he basks in the spotlight with just a few supporting artists, unlike in Incanto, in which he was among 50 performers. In the lush theatre setting, he creates a mysterious, intimate ambience.

Labero has been performing magic professionally for 30 years and has sold out thousands of shows across the globe.

His passion began at the age of 12, when he received a magic box from his parents on his birthday.

"I played a lot of sports such as ice hockey and soccer, which was good, but everyone did that," he says. "Everyone needs something special of his own to impress and I think lifting people up with positive energy is important."

He studied economics for two years but has never held another job apart from being a magician.

"It is my firm belief that once you find your niche, be specialised and go all out for it. Being successful in your home country is key. From there, you can make magic happen anywhere in the world," he says.

1 What do you like about Singapore?

Everything here inspires me. I love the buzz of the city, its cleanliness, the food, the culture and the pure efficiency of the country. There is so much energy in the ambience of Singapore - I think it is amazing and I love it.

My daughter Nicole loves Universal Studios Singapore - we've been there four or five times.

Also, I especially enjoy having my coffee anywhere in Orchard Road, being surrounded by the constant bustling energy of the city.

2 Will you come up with tricks related to Singapore culture?

Yes, of course. I always aspire to create a local connection with my audiences. In my future shows, I would love to incorporate local food delights such as chilli and black pepper crabs and Hainanese chicken rice.

3 What can we expect from your show?

I combine everything. I do big illusions with motorcycles and slice people into pieces. I do sleight of hand with little coins and cards and there is also comedy. I do everything in 90 minutes. It's a unique package I created from my whole world.

4 Who are your influences?

As a young boy, I saw the superstars of magic, Siegfried & Roy, and that changed my life. They made tigers and lions and elephants disappear; they were big, big shows. I never forgot that. They had nice clothes and beautiful girls on stage and the whole production made me go "wow".

5 What is the hardest trick you have ever accomplished?

I have caught a real bullet fired at me with my bare hands. People have died attempting this trick. It took me six months to work on it and I went to Tunisia to film it.

6 Did you woo your wife with magic?

Why, yes. I did so much more at the beginning of our relationship. Similarly, I used to entertain my daughter with tricks. Kids love it when I do tricks such as making chocolate appear.

7 Do people always ask you to perform tricks for them?

I don't go around doing magic all the time in private. It's like how comedians don't tell jokes all day. Sometimes it gets tiring to have pressure on you all the time.

I like doing quick, casual tricks in everyday life, such as making a business card appear in my hand or breaking a wine glass and putting it back together. The best effect is when it just happens out of the blue, not when someone asks for it.

8 How would you like to be remembered?

As a nice and likeable person. I'm privileged; I get to travel and meet new people. I want to be able to make people smile.

Hopefully, they will remember me as a good entertainer. I want them to come to my show and think they'd never forget it and, at the same time, think I'm a good person.

I feel it's important to be successful at what you do and still be a good person. It's hard to combine them both when someone becomes too successful. You have to be focused and keep both feet on the ground to stay humble.

cherylm@sph.com.sg