On Feb. 4, at 6 p.m., the Crown Theater’s stage will be full of some unique performers. The circus star Gregory Popovich has turned regular house pets that he adopted from shelters all over the country into a cast of Las Vegas stars. The show combines the talents of humans and more than 30 animals to create a hilarious and fun variety show for audiences of all ages.
For Popovich, performing and animals have always been part of his life. “I am a fourth-generation Russian circus performer,” he explained. “I was born in the Soviet Union. My mom and dad were in the circus and worked with trained dogs. I grew up backstage around the trained dogs of my mom.”
Despite his early connection with animals, his own career began with a different act. He was a world-renowned juggler. In fact, he was named the world’s best juggler twice. He came to the United States in 1990 when the circus giants Barnum and Bailey invited him to be part of their circus. It wasn’t until after this experience that he started thinking about performing with animals again. “I started to think about building my own show and doing a comedy routine. A friend of mine took me to visit an animal shelter. I was very surprised that so many good-looking kitties and dogs needed owners,” Popovich said.
He describes his experience at the shelter as kind of like falling in love. “I came to the shelter with an open mind. I didn’t have any breed or anything in mind. You just see the eyes and how they act and it’s a natural chemistry. You fall in love. I can’t explain how it happens, but it happens,” he said.
Right now the show features over 30 animals. There are 14 cats, 12 dogs, white pigeons, a parrot and some geese. There is also a special guest star: Diamond the miniature horse. Working with each animal is unique. Unsurprisingly, Popovich says that dogs are the easiest to train. They are eager to obey and have abundant energy. Cats however, pose a challenge. “Cats are the opposite. With cats, it is not about techniques. I find a natural habit. They show me what they like to do. They do it in my living room. As soon as I find a natural habit I create a trick around it. It isn’t training, it is intuitive,” Popovich explained, “The most difficult step is moving it from the living room to the stage. It is all in steps. I have my family clap whenever they do the trick at home so they learn that applause will not destroy them. Or I will play some music so that they learn that music won’t hurt them.”
While the show is entertaining, Popovich also wants to highlight a serious issue in the country. There millions of animals in shelters around the country that need happy homes. Often shelter animals can be overlooked, but every animal in this show is a rescue. “Look at these ordinary pets. They are so talented and smart. If people want pets in their lives they should go visit a shelter,” Popovich said.
While the animals are a significant part of the show, they are not the entire show. It is a variety show so there are a fun mix of acts. The show also features some humans performing incredible feats like acrobatics, juggling and European-style physical comedy. The audience is also an important feature of the show because the animal and human performers are competing against each other. The audience determines the winners by applause. For tickets and information, visit http://www.community-concerts.com.