Ringling Bros. ringmaster guides you through the big top
By ERIC STARK | Staff
May 19, 2014.
A funny thing happened during his dinner-theater audition …
Johnathan Lee Iverson needed a job, something to help pay the bills while he developed his opera career.
The director of the dinner theater production for which he was auditioning happened to also be the director for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which was in need of a ringmaster.
In 1999, at age 22, Iverson became the first African-American ringmaster of a major U.S. circus.
Oh, and he got the dinner theater gig, too.
Beginning his career with the Boys Choir of Harlem, Iverson sang for four U.S. presidents and performed with Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder and Tony Bennett. Now he uses his distinct voice to usher the crowd around the three-ring circus.
He and his circus mates will be at the Giant Center in Hershey from Wednesday through May 26 with a new theme show entitled “Legends,” which combines the reality of the circus’ signature acts — clowns, elephants and trapeze performances — with mythological and prehistoric creatures (use your imagination).
“It’s fast-paced, action-packed,” says Iverson during a telephone interview about the show. “It showcases our talent.”
During the show, Iverson says he and Paulo the Legend Seeker present Paulo’s discoveries of living legends from around the world.
Besides Paulo’s mythological encounters with a unicorn and Pegasus, the winged horse, he also meets circus mainstays such as big cat presenter Alexander Lacey, Riders of the Wind Cossack horsemen and motorcycle daredevils.
Like a good ringmaster, Iverson explains what to expect during the upcoming show dates.