Popovich Comedy Pet Theater Proves the Power of Love
Not a dog lover? Got kitty allergies? Get over it—at the Popovich Comedy Pet Theater with Gregory Popovich, a fourth generation circus performer from Moscow. A consummate juggler, Popovich decided in the 90s to put a new spin on his career: he began to incorporate animals into his act. All fourteen cats and ten dogs at the Comedy Pet Theater are strays that Popovitch has rescued from animal shelters. Even the geese (yes, there is such a thing as a gaggle of gifted geese) are rescues.
“You know we visit the animal shelters three years ago,” Popovich said in his distinctly heavy Russian accent. “An old lady on a farm, she had died and she had geese! Nobody wants the geese so they try to put them in the shelter. I tell myself, ‘no one wants them? Then maybe they put them to sleep!’ I don’t know what the heck I am going to do with the geese. They are a completely different animal. So, we decide to show them on the stage.”
Today the geese proudly parade on the V Theater stage at Planet Hollywood, six days a week, but it’s the dogs and particularly the cats that get reactions from the audience.
“Cats are more difficult to train,” explains Popovich. “The dogs will be doing something they like. They jump around. They love to play with the master. To chase the ball. The kits? I have to find out what they like to do. What are their natural habits. Each cat is seeking some trick which they love to do, like walk around the leg. I literally do what they like to do in the show. You can’t use power on the cat.”
Every show is different, says Popovich, because of the cats. “It’s impossible to make sure the same cat makes the same move every time. They might lose attention. I don’t have an act I can count on. I have fourteen cats on the stage at one time because I might have to go to the next kitty and that one will want to the job the other kitty wouldn’t.”
Popovich has twenty cats and of the fourteen he uses on stage, one of them is simply a prop. “She is twelve years old. She is retired but she don’t like to say at home. She cries. She feels lost and lonely. I decided, ‘Okay you can sit in the show. Just sit on the chair and be part of the team.’ She doesn’t feel lonely now.”
A custom made trailer equipped with air-conditioning is used to transport the furry troupe twenty minutes each way from the Popovich home to the theater. Each animal has their own cage. With an extended “family” of thirty critters a good question is: does Popovich have medical animal insurance? “No,” he laughs. “The animals don’t have insurance but we have friends who help us. We have a very nice veterinarian who gives us family discount.”
Popovich keeps an eye on the health and welfare of his family of mammalians. Even with all the treats they’re given during performances he makes sure to control their calories. “Animals have to run. They have to chase tails. In modern times there is not enough room to run and chase that’s why it’s a good idea to control the calories. When a pet gets old, reduce the calories,” he says. He advises against over feeding pets and leaving dry foods out for over twenty-four hours. He feeds his troupe breakfast in the morning and a big dinner after the show.
The seasoned circus performer and animal handler also has words of wisdom when it comes to teaching dogs (or cats) obedience and tricks. “Animals have personalities,” Popovich states emphatically. “Pay attention to that. Respect that. Keep in mind they have some things they love and some things they don’t like.I see in strays that this dog he likes to chase the ball. This one likes to jump high. This one likes the slow motion so he likes the magic.I see what they like to do. They are all different personalities. When you respect your pets you will live in harmony.”
Popovich’s pets, which include performing parrots, doves and mice, certainly respect their master. During a performance last Saturday a white dove flew into the audience and perched on the back of a seat for most of the show. No one was sure if it was part of the act or not; the dove seemed perfectly content and very attentive.
“Ah,” said Popovich. “That was an accident. We didn’t want to interrupt the show. Maybe he decided instead of working the show he wanted to watch from the other side of the stage. When the show finished, he flied himself back to the cage with the rest of the doves.”
The show isn’t all about the animals. Popovich is a gifted juggler and a seasoned stage performer. While the furry cast takes a backstage break, Popovich keeps the audience entertained with European-style clowns and amazing juggling and balancing acts. A great family show, the Popovich Comedy Pet Theater is also a tribute to the healing power of love at work in the animal kingdom. Gregory Popovich, by all animal rescue rights, should be gifted with a golden crown. – Christine McKellar
For tickets to the matinees, Monday-Saturday at 2:30 p.m, please visit: http://www.vtheaterboxoffice.com/Vegas_Show_Tickets.cfm?showID=10023
To visit Gregory Popovitch: http://www.comedypet.com/