BY TOM LAVIS
Russian-born Gregory Popovich has proven that a pet doesn’t need to be a royal pedigree to be a star.
Popovich travels the country with a menagerie of animals that offer audiences a different performance experience.
Described as the perfect family show, the Popovich Comedy Pet Theater will take center stage at 7:30 p.m. May 2 at the Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center, 450 Schoolhouse Road, Richland Township.
“We are like a traveling animal vaudeville show,” Popovich said from the road in Alabama.
“I have 14 house cats, 12 dogs, three geese, two parrots, five doves and other pets that entertain people of all ages.”
The performing pets have appeared on “The Tonight Show,” “Late Show With David Letterman” and “America’s Got Talent.”
The show is direct from Las Vegas, and is a mix of comedy and juggling skills that Popovich blended with European-style clowning and balancing acts.
“Our show is more involved than a circus act because just like your pets, my four-legged companions are very special to me,” he said.
“We do skits that incorporate our pets in place of humans.”
But the show does have a human element.
“We have eight humans who interact with the pets, and we let the audience decide through their applause the most-talented performers on the stage,” he said.
“Needless to say, the animals always win.”
Popovich has appeared in Johnstown before, but he is eager for the audience to see his new acts.
“My pets love to show off onstage and they will be doing a lot of new stunts and skits,” Popovich said.
Ironically, all Popovich’s cats and dogs are strays that have been saved from animal shelters.
“Just like your pets, my four-legged companions are very special to me,” he said.
That goes without saying.
Few pet owners transport their animals in a custom-built, 40-foot trailer complete with self-contained heating and air conditioning systems as well as its own water supply.
“After all, they are the stars of the show and we treat them that way,” Popovich said.
“Pets are the main actors while the humans merely help out.”
Popovich doesn’t believe that he trains the animals to do certain tricks or stunts. Instead, he teaches the animals to perform onstage by allowing them to show off their individual personalities and talents.
“Just like people, every pet has a special quirky little thing they like to do,” he said.
“This thing, or trait, allows the pet to show a unique part of its personality to their owner.”
If a cat loves to jump, Popovich incorporates that into the show.
“My cat, Sugar, loves to climb, so I let him show off his climbing abilities onstage,” he said.
“By allowing my pets to perform the skills and stunts they naturally love to do, they enjoy performing as much as the audience loves watching."
What: Popovich Comedy Pet Theater.
Where: Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center, 450 Schoolhouse Road, Richland Township.
When: 7:30 p.m. May 2.
Tickets: Available from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays at the box office or by calling 269-7200, 800-846-2787 or visit www.upjarts.org.
Cost: $25 and $15.
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