Magic has landed on Jeju Island, the Las Vegas kind. Following a 15-year run in Las Vegas, “The Magic and Tigers of Rick Thomas” was launched on April 1 at Vegasplex, a theater exclusively built for this show located within the grounds of Chefline, a theme park located in Songdangli, Gujwa-eup, Jeju City. It somehow seems fitting that the magic show would have its beginning on April Fool’s Day, incongruous as it may seem that this relatively unknown island would be able to host such a show.
The show wasn’t just magically conjured here out of thin air, however, as it took more than two years to materialize. The organizers of Vegasplex flew Rick Thomas out to Jeju two years ago to entice him to perform here. They looked at several venues including casinos but found them unsuitable. In the end, they offered to build a custom theater for his show. He was delighted with the idea and began to build his ideas around it. In fact, it is not the first time that Thomas had performed for an extensive period in a foreign location.
“I was in Guam for five years performing in a theater there; I was in Hawaii for five years, and then I did international tours for quite some time,” Thomas said. When asked why he has chosen to set up camp here, he said, “Asian people love magic. I performed five times in Japan and did a tour of three to four cities in Korea.”
He admits, however, that prior to his visit, he had not known about Jeju and that he “looked it up on a map.” All that is behind him now and he has settled into Jeju with his own crew of six dancers/assistants and three Siberian tigers. He is planning to stay in Jeju for at least six months, longer if his show continues to sell.
▲ Courtesy Vegasplex
He first encountered the world of magic when he was only seven years old. Living next door to Disneyland, he reports that he picked up magic on his own by watching people. He says his best supporter was his mother who was willing to watch him no matter how bad his tricks were or how busy she was. He has consistently worked in his profession despite all odds. Even though his show creates illusions, he states that the basis of it is about maintaining one's dream.
“As we grew up in the world of magic, all these other friends fell away and did something else. But I didn’t. I kept going. And... they gave me that opportunity... to pursue it and become greater because there was more opportunity for me... If you keep going, you will be the one at the top,” Thomas said.
Despite good plans and intentions, Thomas’ touchdown in Jeju was rocky. Not long after his arrival, he had to have his appendix removed and was hospitalized for five days. According to Thomas, he has never missed a show in 35 years and 22,000 performances, but this time he had no choice but to postpone his show for a day as his doctor refused to let him out. He even had plans for many new illusions for his first performance here but can hardly move presently due to pain. His show had to be toned down and modified so that he could move less. This might have led to some disappointments on the part of the audience in terms of the quality that they were expecting. On the first day of his performance when this interview was held, he still looked stiff and uncomfortable. His stitches were scheduled to be taken out the next day.
His shows usually last 50-60 minutes and for the Jeju performance, he had planned to include six magical illusions including the ones with the magnificent tigers which he treats like his babies. He thinks that it will take a couple of weeks to make the performance really “rock solid” as soon as his health recovers. “The people on Jeju are no less important than visitors to Las Vegas. What makes me different from anybody else? Nothing. So whether I am performing here in Jeju, or in Vegas, that show is important. And that’s number one for me,” Thomas said.
What would he like to say to the people of Jeju? “All people in life are equal wherever they may be living in their life, whether they be in Jeju or Las Vegas or France or wherever they may be in the world. Coming to Jeju and having the opportunity to perform for these people, I hope will give them a good memory... for the rest of their life. And that they are important to me and that already after the first day, my relationship with the people of Jeju will be carried with me in my heart as well.”
“The Magic and Tigers of Rick Thomas” has three performances daily, at 9:40 a.m., 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., at the Vegasplex located within the Chefline theme park. Call 064-783-5454 for more details. The show is in English with Korean translation.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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