By: Janice Malone
Ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages! It’s that time of year again, when the Ringling Bros and Barnum Bailey Circus comes to town! It seems that the pageantry, the beauty and the magic of the circus brings out the kid in all of us—even adult children. This year’s show is titled Ringling Bros and Barnum Bailey Presents: Dragons. For the first time in circus history, myth and majesty will share the arena during this must-see family event that can only be witnessed at The Greatest Show On Earth®! Each tribe must prove that they have virtues of Courage, Strength, Wisdom and Heart to arouse dragons which appear right before your very eyes! Don't miss this once-in-a-lifetime family event when The Greatest Show On Earth brings the world together… to bring your family together!
Johnathan Lee Iverson is the man that helps keep the action flowing seamlessly. As the Ringling Bros and Barnum Bailey official ringmaster, part of his job is to keep the fantasy fantastic. “The main thing about being a ringmaster is making sure that you‘re translating the fantasy of the circus fluidly to the audience. The ringmaster has to keep that fantasy going,” explains Iverson during a recent chat. “In every show there’s always something that will happen that’s not a part of the script, so it’s my job buffer things when that happens.” With his iconic top hat in hand, Iverson presides over this fantastical celebratory tournament of circus champions that brings together mystic dragon lore with authentic circus feats found only at The Greatest Show On Earth®!
Johnathan Lee Iverson was the first African American and the youngest Ringmaster in the history of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey®. It’s obvious that entertainment would be Johnathan’s calling in life even as a little boy. At the age of 11, he began performing with the world-famous Boys Choir of Harlem and was awarded the lead tenor. As a member of the choir, he sang at the intermission for Luciano Pavarotti’s Concert in Central Park, performed in a live show on Broadway and won second place in the Lena Horne Vocal Jazz Scholarship. Within Johnathan’s first year of touring with Ringling Bros.® he caught the eye of legendary journalist Barbara Walters who named Johnathan one of the ten most fascinating people in 1999. Even though he was a child prodigy, Iverson still had the excitement of being in the audience of a Ringling Bros circus show. He says, “Yes, I loved the circus back then. Going to the circus at Madison Square Garden as a kid who grew in NYC was something you did as a child. It was just what came natural—like getting all dressed up for Easter or something. I really enjoyed everything about the circus—especially the motorcycle acts.”
Johnathan graduated from the University of Hartford's Hartt School in May 1998 with a degree in voice performance, and shortly after his graduation, He was invited to begin his professional entertainment career with the 129th Edition of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey®. Johnathan couldn’t refuse the offer and felt his prominent role in the show was an unbelievable dream come true. He’s now been with Ringling Bros for a total of 15 years. In 2004 he left the company to do various musical theatre shows but was asked to come back five years later. Iverson recalls, “My original goal during college was to pursue a career in opera. I went to an audition at a dinner theatre. It so happens that the director of the dinner theatre was also a director for Ringling Bros. After my audition he suggested that I try out for the show and I was hired.”
After having toured with the 140th Edition, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Presents BARNUM 200SM, Johnathan was filled with joy when he was asked to continue his reign as Ringmaster for another spectacular Edition, DRAGONS. “Ringling Bros. is truly The Greatest Show On Earth. It amazes me how every year the producers and the creative team come together to create one innovative circus spectacular after another,” exclaims, Johnathan.
Performing in the circus has truly become a family affair for Iverson. His wife and fellow performer Priscilla, whom he met and married while previously touring with Ringling Bros., and their children Matthew Felipe and Lila Simone, all travel the world together while being part of the Greatest Show on Earth!