Pets to parade on Rowland stage

Old-school comedian W.C. Fields had words of warning for young entertainers: Never share the spotlight with a kid or an animal.

A million Internet videos prove his point. You can’t compete with a cute cat or dog.

The Rowland Theatre isn’t trying to compete. Instead, it is just handing over its stage for a furry friend free-for-all. At 2 p.m. April 25, Philipsburg’s historic 1917 movie palace and opera house will become the temporary home of Popovich’s Comedy Pet Theater.

Gregory Popovich and his brigade of 15 cats and 10 dogs are generally found in the big leagues. There are the Planet Hollywood Casino shows in Las Vegas. They know all about being backstage with David Letterman, Jay Leno, Craig Ferguson and more. People Magazine? Old hat. America’s Got Talent? Been there, done that.

But Popovich comes from a circus background, and that means touring is part of the package.

The family-friendly animal act comes to Philipsburg fresh off visits to the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis and the Grand Opera House in Wilmington, Del.

It is not, however, the first time that the Rowland has opened the curtains for four-footed performers.

The theater was built with the idea that it could be used for the newer entertainment of motion pictures and the more traditional stage performances. In fact, historians have said that part of the location choice on Front Street was the accessibility of the backstage area to the nearby train tracks for traveling shows.

The Rowland is owned by Philipsburg Borough and operated by a nonprofit board. Recently, there has been a push to expand the diversity of performances beyond the regular first-run movies. Rowland Reels are the once-a-month showings of classic films like Cary Grant and Charlie Chaplin features.

Stage productions, however, are more rare, but a special treat in a venue built with cavernous acoustics and a huge audience capacity. When they happen, though, it always seems like it was exactly what the space was meant for, because, well, it was.