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Pets + theater: Rescued cats, dogs to take on acting roles in Saturday show at Holmes

Gregory Popovich will bring his world-famous Comedy Pet Theater to the Holmes this Saturday, April 13 for a 3 p.m. show. (Submitted photo)1 / 2
Gregory Popovich has been working with and training animals for the stage since he was a young boy, helping his mother train dogs for her circus act. (Submitted photo)2 / 2

Performing animals have been entertaining crowds around the globe for centuries. But how many times have you seen a show where the pets are given acting roles?

That's one key difference between his show and other traveling animal acts, says Gregory Popovich, who will be bringing his Comedy Pet Theater to the stage of Detroit Lakes' Historic Holmes Theatre this Saturday, April 13 at 3 p.m.

"I call my show 'pet theater' because they (the pets) each play different characters, different roles," said Popovich during a Monday interview.

Another fact that makes Popovich's show stand out from the rest is that all the cats and dogs featured on stage with him have been rescued from animal shelters across the country.

"My main message to the audience is to show them animals are people too," Popovich says. "I try to show their personalities. They are very talented, smart, and if after my show someone from the audience visits a local animal shelter (i.e., to adopt), I feel like my message reached the target."

So how does he train his animals to perform as characters in a skit? First, he spends a lot of time studying them, learning their natural habits and personalities.

"House cats especially are very independent," he said. "You can't force a cat to do something they don't like... but if I find out what a cat's natural habits are, then I can create tricks that they like to do."

Popovich has spent much of his life working with animals.

"I grew up in a Russian circus family," he said. "My mom and dad (Alex and Tamara Popovich) worked with dogs, and I spent all my childhood among pets of my mom... my first babysitters, my first friends, were dogs."

A veteran of the Moscow Circus, Popovich found much of his early success as a juggler.

"I'm a winner of many international circus competitions as a juggler," he said.

He first began learning how to juggle when he was just six years old; by the time he turned 14, he was preparing his first solo act — juggling on a free standing ladder. After the public debut of this feat, Gregory became a member of the renowned Moscow Circus at the age of 17.

Back in 1990, after emigrating to the United States, he started working with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

"I was the first Russian, the first Soviet performer to ever work with Ringling Brothers," he said.

After spending just one season working with the circus, Popovich received an invitation to go work in Las Vegas, and from there, he started to develop his own show.

Today, the Popovich Comedy Pet Theater has a rich performance history, with thousands of shows presented in more than 20 countries, and is currently in its 6th season at the Planet Hollywood Resort/Casino in Las Vegas.

Tickets for Saturday's show are just $15 for adults and $7.50 for students, thanks in part to the sponsorship of the Detroit Lakes Animal Hospital and Becker Pet & Garden. To reserve your seats, please visit the website at www.dlccc.org/holmes-theatre.html, call the box office at 218-844-7469, or stop by in person at 806 Summit Ave., Detroit Lakes. Tickets will also be available at the door the day of the show.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 18-plus years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Detroit Lakes School Board. 

(218) 844-1454
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