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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Traveling show features cats, dogs performing vaudeville acts

The Popovich Comedy Pet Theater is a testament to cats and dogs living in harmony – or to be precise, entertaining in harmony.

The cast list: 12 cats, 10 dogs, one parrot, three geese and eight people.

It combines vaudeville, Vegas and Russian circus elements for the kind of show never before seen at the Bing Crosby Theater (nor at the Panida Theater in Sandpoint).

Let’s put it this way: Have you ever seen a dog drive a train around the stage?

Popovich, a Moscow Circus veteran based in Las Vegas, said his animal act is not exactly typical.

“We don’t force them to do difficult tricks,” he said by phone. “I just look for personality. … Each pet has some kind of trick inside their body. Some like to play with a ball, or jumping, or climbing.”

Or, in the case of one dog, walking around on his hind legs with a cat riding piggyback.

Sometimes, the “trick” is simply an endearing trait. Popovich said he has one dog who is good at acting lazy. That dog plays a student in a classroom who runs and hides whenever homework is assigned.

Another difference: This show has a plot.

“We do a small story and inside the story the pets are acting as actors,” he said. “They have roles.”

Popovich portrays a clown who has been kicked out of the circus. He’s on the street, finding animals to train for his big circus comeback.

The human performers include a number of former Moscow Circus performers. You’ll see world-class juggling and acrobatic acts.

But the people are a sideshow. During every show, the audience is asked to choose whether the humans or pets have the most talent. The pets, said Popovich, always win.

Popovich is especially proud of the fact that his talented cast comes from the humblest of origins. All of his cats and dogs were rescued from animal shelters.

“In fact, the show should be called ‘Second Chance,’ because that’s exactly what my animals, and any of your adopted pets have been given,” he said in a press release. “A second chance to live their lives while enriching ours.”

Popovich comes by his circus abilities naturally. He’s the son of two Russian circus performers and went on to become a world champion juggler and star performer with the Moscow Circus – at age 17.

He also learned at a young age how to train and stage an animal act. His mother, Tamara Popovich, had a circus dog act in Russia.

Popovich came to Las Vegas in 1992 to be a featured performer at the Circus Circus Hotel and Casino. At one point, he and his wife Izolda decided to use Snowbird, the family kitten, in their clown act. The crowd loved it.

He went to the shelter and found more cats, and soon had a segment of his show titled “Cat Skills.”

Later, he trained some dogs and expanded the animal portion of the act. In 2006, he launched the Popovich Comedy Pet Theater, which is in residence at the V Theater at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino.

The show occasionally heads out on the road.

“The pets travel in a 36-foot trailer, custom-made, with windows and air conditioning,” said Popovich.

Don’t the dogs and cats sometimes fight like … well, you know?

“They all grew up together,” he said. “They have more friendliness.”

One other question: What do the three geese do in the show?

“That’s a secret,” said Popovich. “You’ll just have to find out.”