When the Greatest Show on Earth comes to Nashville, circus goers will get a taste of longtime ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson’s amazing voice and charm. Iverson has been leading the show since he was 22, making him the youngest ringmaster in Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey history.
Named one of Barbara Walters’10 most fascinating people in 1999, Iverson said his journey is far from over. I had the amazing opportunity to talk to Mr. Iverson about life in the circus. Here’s what he said.
Q: You are the youngest ringmaster in Ringling’s history? How did you become a ringmaster?
Johnathan Lee Iverson: By accident. I was auditioning for a dinner theater and the director just happened to work for Ringling Bros. They needed a singing ringmaster and he thought I would possibly fit the bill. He put my name in the pool of other potential candidates for the job, and the rest is history.
Q: What do you like most about being a ringmaster?
Johnathan Lee Iverson: Being a ringmaster. I love everything about it. It’s an honor being an ambassador for the world’s longest running show.
Q: What challenges do you face as a ringmaster?
Johnathan Lee Iverson: Endurance. On average we do 10 shows per week, that’s well over 400 shows annually, which require me to sing and announce.
Q: Your wife and young children travel with you. What is it like to raise a family on a train?
Johnathan Lee Iverson: Beautiful. I am the wealthiest man in show business because I can include my family in everything I do. My wife Priscilla is a production manager. She is my boss and she gets paid to tell me what to do.
Q: As a child, what did you enjoy most about the circus?
Johnathan Lee Iverson: The whole event. I loved the smell of cotton candy and popcorn… I can still recall the excitement. I grew up in New York next to Madison Square Garden. The circus was just something we had to see. My favorite act was Globe of Steel.
Q: How long have you been a ringmaster for Ringling?
Johnathan Lee Iverson: I’ve been doing this for 16 years.
Q: Ringling Bros. will be presenting “Legends” in Nashville? What can audiences expect?
Johnathan Lee Iverson: The Greatest Show on Earth! Things you have seen before but in a different capacity. We have Paulo all the way from Brazil… He can do anything. He’s only 4 feet tall, but very strong. He’s one of the greatest athletes you’ll probably ever see. We have Chinese acrobats who perform jaw-dropping acts. There’s also the amazing Alexander Lacy, who really displays extraordinary courage in a cage filled with lions and tigers. We have legendary elephants, prancing pigs, kangaroos, and even a Unicorn.
Q: If you weren’t a ringmaster, what do you think you’d be doing today?
Johnathan Lee Iverson: I suspect singing… Maybe have an opera career. Definitely something in entertainment.
Q: Any big plans for the future?
Johnathan Lee Iverson: We all have plans but I don’t plan too far ahead. I plan for today and hope everyone stays healthy.
Q: Do you see yourself staying with Ringling Bros. for a while?
Johnathan Lee Iverson: Absolutely. I’ll be in it for as long as they’ll have me.
Want to go?
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey will be in Nashville, January 23 through January 25, 2015, at Bridgestone Arena.
*photo courtesy of Ringling Bros.