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Gregory Popovich Unleashes His Animal Instincts

Comedy Pet Theater
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It could be said that Gregory Popovich’s show in the V Theater at Planet Hollywood, has gone to the dogs …except for the fact that one wouldn’t want to leave the cats, doves, and geese out, either. But to say that Popovich’s Comedy Pet Theater gives rescued and trained canines a voice is not a massive understatement, especially in light of the fact that the show begins when a dog steps up to the microphone to introduce his master.

No offense to David Letterman but this show is intelligent pet tricks all the way through. The entertainer has rescued all the animals from shelters and has taught them to do some pretty amazing things, giving the audience “paws” for reflection. How many cats do you know that can portray train passengers interacting with each other at the station and then hand their tickets to the conductor?

“I create situations in which the cats and dogs are actors,” Popovich explains. “In the process, I try to send a message out about animal shelters. These animals are smart, nice-looking and grateful. I want to have people think that maybe they’ll want to get a pet from a shelter, too.

“I have 14 cats in my show and 12 dogs and they are all from shelters,” he continues. “I have two separate homes for them, with the cats being separated from the dogs and each pet having its own personal space, and they work every day at Planet Hollywood. This is a big show. In one hour, more than 30 pets perform, including a parrot and geese. I look for high-energy puppies or kittens to train. While dogs trust you and will work for treats, cats are independent and training them requires a different technique. I examine each individual cat’s personality because every cat has a trick inside its body, whether it like playing with balls, walking on its hind legs, or jumping to the top of the bookshelves. I create tricks around their natural behaviors.”

Popovich notes that cats’ bodies are strong and have been created for hunting. Cats can also jump in the air and they have nice balance. He points out that while, in regular life, felines may lie on the couch all day, in his life, he creates exercises for them so that they can stay in good shape. To train a cat, he says, takes three to six months while training a dog usually takes 2-4 months.

The breed of dog or cat doesn’t matter, although Popovich reveals that Siamese cats are the most difficult to train, The entertainer admits that the process can be challenging and that, at the base of it, is the connection or relationship he has built with each individual animal. He always takes kittens or puppies from the shelter because he can create with them what he wants to do and help build their characters. The dogs all work everyday, no matter what, while Popovich has two or three different cats for each trick in case the one scheduled to perform it that day doesn’t want to do it.

“Some kittens in the show ignore me,” he laughs. “But because I rescued them from the shelter, I keep them in the chorus line in my show. I also have two cats who are 15 years old and retired but they also like to be with the company. They are all part of the team and part of my family.”

“At the end of the show, there is huge applause from the audience,” he adds. “These pets are very sensitive and they understand applause – you can see the look in their eyes. I read their eyes. They also know that I feel good. I always kiss them after the show. The end of the show is the best part of the day.”

As for the show itself, audiences will see plenty of dog-and-cat-stealing scenes. Vignettes include Dog Football and Dog School, the latter in which the canines sit like perfect little angels at little desks on the stage.  It is a classroom scene in which one dog solves math problems by barking out his answers, one erases the board with his paws, and one points to spots on the globe during a geography lesson. Then there’s the one who hasn’t done his homework. As for the cats, you’ll see them navigating parallel bars, jumping through a hula hoop in a fire act, walking on a ball, piggy-backing on a dog and more.

The Russian-born Popovich developed his own performing talents at the renowned Moscow Circus School. Excelling at juggling, he toured with the Moscow Circus and then performed solo throughout Europe, Japan, and America with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. He also appeared at Circus Circus in Las Vegas.

Although his pets are the stars of the show, the entertainer also showcaes his adept circus skills tht include juggling. He paints a clown face on and takes the audience through a performnce that melds pets with humans.

It's definitely a dog's (and cat's) life.

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