It all begins with magic

Singapore – To see is to believe. This is the thought I brought with me when I recently visited the Merlion country to witness with my naked eye the magic tricks – or the quick hands – of JB Benn and Chris Korn, AXN’s Mondo Magic duo.

Without batting an eyelash, I tried to find at least some practical or scientific explanation about the two’s tricky talent. However, I was left amazed, my jaw dropping from one magic exhibit to another. Devoid of sorcery clichés like the Abrakadabra mantra or the magic wand, JB and Chris’ tricks turned into a magical and fun treat, eliciting oohs and aahs from the crowd.

Seeing them make magic with their bare hands, you discover that there’s more to bending coins and appearing and disappearing cards and oranges. Performing tricks is a serious business requiring creativity and expertise. The profession of magic is one tough class act.

JB and Chris started early in this ancient form of art and entertainment. At 15, JB performed tricks professionally and graced the stages of exclusive clubs in New York. Chris was of the same age when he learned the nitty-gritty of magic with John Mendoza, also a native of Missouri. Chris also read trick books to understand the craft.

JB, on the other hand, found a mentor in Rene Leavand, a one-arm man magician from Argentina. The duo also met magicians from around the world as they unearthed their potential.

By some strange twist of fate, JB and Chris met through a mutual friend who happens to be a librarian of Magic Castle, a club where magicians converge and perform. Their friend is in charge of all the trick books and manuscripts.

From then on, JB and Chris honed their gifts for magic and established a bond that brings them together in a show called Mondo Magic, which has enthralled millions of fans and made believers out of cynics worldwide.

"It wasn’t a chosen profession," says JB on how he got the "magic bug." "It just perpetuated itself into what I’m doing now. The interest just fell and happened."

The same thing holds true with Chris.

The two pursued this never-thought-of profession and never looked back in spite of a brighter promise of college education. Like all other success stories, the real-life buddies followed the desires of their heart. They eat and breathe magic every day of their lives.

The duo hit the small screen and hopped from one place to another without a flying trapeze or a teletransport.

"Our magic," says JB, "is organic." He can show up at somebody else’s house and use anything he finds there – like a cup – to perform magic. His first trick was to put big pieces of fruits and vegetables in an empty cup, while Chris was to push a pencil through a glass window without a hole on it. JB explains that this type of magic has left many a person freaking out and going nuts. This way, non-believers feel the power of magic as close as they can get.

Perfecting the part, however, is not as easy as seeing objects fading in and out of thin air.

"Sometimes it depends on the trick," says Chris. "Some forms of magic require a lot more preparations than others. But in the end, you have to be mentally prepared."

It also takes a lot of practice. For instance, the coin effect which dates back to the Ming Dynasty took Chris seven years to perfect. The concept is to make small things move and disappear by casting a shadow. JB’s hardest act was to link rings – which he borrows from people – together. Owners of these pieces of jewelry just can’t take them apart.

"Magic is an amazing art," says Chris. "People tend to forget that and also the hours and hours one puts in it."

The dedication and devotion of the magicians elevate their profession to the status of art, rather than plain entertainment.

That’s why JB and Chris continue using this gift of magic those before them have left behind.

Who’s easier to please, the adults or the kids?

The duo replies, "Bringing out the child-like reaction in adults is also satisfying."

Perhaps, adults overlook the joys in simple things or have become more cynical as they grow older.

"No one is born a cynic," observes JB. "People are just shaped cynics. That behavior comes from what they have seen in the past. But when magic defies physics, they start to shake a bit."

Magicians have to be involved to pull and win the crowd.

Since this profession is also a science, JB and Chris brainstorm and experiment with new twists and tricks. They plan everything meticulously to achieve precision. They also meditate and consider details like the weather before executing tricks.

Whenever a slight error comes along, JB and Chris tap their funny side and treat the situation as it is.

"(That’s why) personality counts a lot (in this profession)," they chorus. "You have to consider details to make things happen."

The Singapore production shoot saw much of the duo’s individuality. JB is quiet and intense, while Chris is funny and exuberant. Both are involved with TV work. The energy is high on the set. More than anything else, they are one in keeping the audience stunned and in awe.

On Feb. 21, Mondo Magic Singapore will premiere at 10 p.m. on AXN. Viewers will also be treated to the amazing sights of Sentosa Island and other scenes of Singapore.

If there is one magic televiewers should learn from JB and Chris, it’s the magic of making things happen – the Mondo Magic way.

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