Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey bring legendary show to Gwinnett
By: Katie Morris
Published: February 19, 2015
See interview video HERE
Jonathan Lee Iverson exudes charm and charisma as he steps into the spotlight and with his commanding, rich voice welcomes ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages to “The Greatest Show on Earth.”
The multi-talented performer and exceptional vocalist will again don the iconic top hat during the all new production of Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey presents “LEGENDS,” which will be at The Arena at Gwinnett Center Feb. 19 through March 1. Iverson is both the youngest and first black ringmaster in the history of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey. He has served as ringmaster for several Ringling productions and received numerous accolades including journalist Barbara Walters naming him one of the ten most fascinating people in 1999.
According to the native New Yorker, the circus is something that has always drawn him.
“The circus has been something that’s just been in my life, like air. It’s just something you did. I’m from New York City, and so of course Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey in particular has a storied history with the city of New York, particularly with Madison Square Garden. It’s one of the oldest presentations to have graced the venue and we’ve had a long relationship,” Iverson said. “Growing up in New York City, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey was something you just did. It was just a part of everyday life, like having a hot dog.”
Iverson began performing at age 11 with the world-famous Boys Choir of Harlem, training intensely for seven years in all forms of music including classical, jazz, hip hop and gospel. He went on to graduate from the University of Hartford’s Hartt School in 1998 with a degree in voice performance. It was shortly after his graduation when Iverson was invited to begin his professional career with Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey. Iverson said that he didn’t exactly aspire to be a ringmaster, saying it actually felt sort of strange when he was offered the position.
“It just sounds like somebody is asking you to be a spy or something. It’s not like something you aspire to necessarily. I’ve met people of late who say they want to be Ringmasters maybe since seeing me, but it wasn’t on my vision board, put it that way,” Iverson said. “Thus I’ve scrapped the vision board because that’s a load. Life happens and all you can do is live in your strength, and my strength was my voice.”
Iverson enjoys stepping into the ring to entertain audiences each night and feels it’s an honor to be part of such a prestigious show.
“Stepping into the ring of Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey, The Greatest Show on Earth, an American icon, to be the voice of that, the longest running hit show on the face of the Earth, personally and professionally that’s quite the feather in your cap,” Iverson said. “To do that is something that’s never lost on me no matter how early the show or how rigorous the schedule. It’s like, ‘Wow, I do this for a living. I get to be the voice for The Greatest Show on Earth for a living.’ The travel and the show is always different everywhere we go. It’s magic. It’s pure magic.”
Iverson describes the new production “LEGENDS” as Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey’s tribute to its status as “The Greatest Show on Earth.” The show features remarkable and legendary acts like animal trainer Alexander Lacey and his big cats, the dynamic Paulo Dos Santos, who is a super athlete at just four feet tall, the Torres family riding eight motorcycles around the 16-foot Globe of Steel, the amazing China National Acrobatic Troupe and the legendary clowns of Clown Alley. Audiences are also able to participate in an all access pre-show party on the arena floor, getting autographs from circus stars, trying on costumes, learning acrobatic skills and juggling with the World Famous Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clowns.
“We also have the world’s greatest menagerie from rescue dogs to the world’s most beautiful and biggest stars of all our elephants, and we threw in some kangaroos this year and some prancing pigs. We have a wooly mammoth, a pegasus and a unicorn, so it is a legendary event,” Iverson said.
Iverson said he doesn’t place expectations on how people will feel after leaving “LEGENDS” because it’s ultimately up to each individual to decide their own experience.
“One thing I know you will experience is the fact that your imagination is safe at The Greatest Show on Earth. Your families imagination is safe at The Greatest Show on Earth,” Iverson said. “It’s just pure entertainment at the highest level. People are flying, they’re talking to animals and doing these incredible feats that just seem impossible and we make them very possible. It’s like being in a dr