WORTHINGTON - If you have trouble getting Fido to “hold it” all day, or figuring out how to keep your feline Fluffy off the kitchen counter, then Gregory Popovich’s World Famous Comedy Pet Theater will astound you.
Born into a family of Russian circus performers, Popovich has lived in the United States for over 30 years and entertained audiences in more than 20 countries.
But at 7 p.m. next Thursday, Popovich and a cast of seven additional human performers - plus more than 30 animals - brings his act to Worthington, and the family-friendly show may leave you wondering what talents your pets have hidden from you.
“This is an amazing show,” guaranteed Tammy Makram, managing director of Worthington’s Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center.
“It worked out that we could latch onto Gregory’s schedule as he toured the Midwest, so we jumped at the opportunity to have him here.”
Makram isn’t the only one who “jumps” at Popovich’s command. Cats, dogs, geese, doves, macaws, goats and even miniature horses perform for him in ways you never before even considered such animals could.
And more to the point, all the pets on stage were rescued from animal shelters around the country and trained by Popovich.
“He’ll have over 30 pets with him,” said Brooke McGlothern, assistant and booking agent for the Las Vegas-based Popovich.
“Gregory was first a circus performer and an award-winning juggler,” she added. “Then he started rescuing animals and found new ways to train them using positive reinforcement methods.”
In fact, Popovich has written two books on the subject: “You CAN Train Your Cat: Secrets of a Master Cat Trainer” and “Doggy Gone Good.”
“He realized that with positive reinforcement techniques, he could entice the pets to do fantastic tricks,” explained McGlothern.
McGlothern’s personal favorites are the cats, whose notoriously touchy temperaments earn them the “Least Likely to Do What You Want Them to Do” title among pet owners.
“He can get a cat to do anything; it’s so cool,” attested McGlothern. “He has them pushing dogs in bassinets, shimmying across bars like gymnasts, doing mini-acrobatics, leaping from heights, riding on the backs of dogs and more.”
McGlothern describes the Popovich Comedy Pet Theater as a “family variety show filled with slapstick comedy,” mentioning skits involving pets dancing, attending “dog school,” playing soccer, correctly solving math problems and posing as firefighters rescuing others from a “burning” building, to name only a few scenarios.
Some of the pets also balance in remarkable ways, ride scooters and even juggle.
“It’s like a circus, but only in the context of the human performers,” she assured, noting the pets involved are all treated with the utmost care and respect.
“Anyone from age three on up is fascinated by this, and there’s never a dull moment.”
A few years ago, Popovich was a finalist on “America’s Got Talent.” He has also appeared on Animal Planet and on late-night talk shows hosted by Jay Leno and David Letterman. For much of each year, he is in residence at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas.
“He’s been doing this in Vegas alone for 30 years,” said McGlothern.
Added Makram, “It’s a novel show, and everywhere he goes, people rave about it.
“This is a rare opportunity.”
In keeping with Popovich’s mission of using rescue pets, MAPAC staff (including box office associate Kaia Nowatzki) has partnered with Tracy Area Animal Rescue for an open house adoption event at MAPAC that will take place beginning at 6 p.m. Thursday - the same time the box office opens on show night.
“I know that quite a few puppies are expected to be coming,” said Nowatzki, herself an animal lover whose family has welcomed several rescue pets into their household over the years.
“I’ve seen the need to adopt and not shop, but if you are shopping for a pet, particularly a dog, make sure to get it from a reputable dealer and not a puppy mill.”
“We thought it would be a great fit to have this rescue event in combination with the show, since all the animals Gregory Popovich works with were rescued.”
Nowatzki advises that would-be pet adopters will need to fill out an adoption application and be approved to take a pet home with them. A portion of Tracy Area Animal Rescue’s mission statement is “to reunite, rescue, care for and adopt out lost, abused or surrendered animals.”
“Rescue animals may have been abused or simply abandoned, or owners may have brought them to a shelter because they can no longer care for them, or an owner may have passed away,” listed Nowatzki.
“If nothing else, Thursday night can be seen as a pet meet-and-greet where someone might find their ‘forever buddy,’” she said.
Certainly, Popovich will demonstrate the tremendous potential that exists in many rescue animals, and the power of positive reinforcement in motivating both pets and people.
“It’s an entertaining package overall that defies belief,” said McGlothern. “If you like pets, you’ll love this show.”
Added Makram, “Gregory Popovich is a Vegas-quality performer who happens to love the idea of rescuing pets and spreading that awareness.
“This will be a spectacular show that’s appropriate for all ages.”
To see clips of past Comedy Pet Theater shows, visit https://youtu.be/Wend3FgTJ7E.
“Popovich’s Comedy Pet Theater” takes place at 7 p.m. Thursday at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center, 714 13th St., Worthington. All seats are reserved, and tickets may be purchased at the box office from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays, by phoning 376-9101 or visiting friendsoftheauditorium.com. Prices for tickets purchased prior to show night are discounted, and a family package/discount rate is available for this show. Attendees are invited to bring a donation of pet food for Tracy Area Animal Rescue, which will be on site with rescue animals available for adoption from 6-7 p.m. Thursday.