The Orpheum Theater has seen a slew of talent over the last century. Comedians, artists, musicians, writers, acrobats and magicians have all performed on the Orpheum stage. But this Tuesday, the Olate Dogs father-and-son duo, Richard and Nicholas Olate, will bring their 10 furry friends for a night of canine talent.
With pooches riding scooters, doing flips and balancing on wheels, the Olate Dogs variety show has been decades in the making, and in 2012, the Olate family hit something big, something for all of America to see.
Olates' Got Talent
For six seasons, the winners of the hit show America’s Got Talent had been musical acts. From 11-year-old singer, Bianca Ryan, to singing ventriloquist, Terry Fator, to Sinatra-style singer Landau Eugene Murphy Jr., America, it seemed, was in love with the musical acts on the television talent show.
But that was about to change when the Olate family and their back-flipping, jump-roping pups took the stage for their audition.
“At that time, we were doing lots of work. We were always on the road, and I had never even seen America’s Got Talent,” said Nicholas Olate.
Nicholas and his father, Richard, had been traveling with their dogs, performing various shows and making numerous appearances on television, when, in 2012, they received a call from an America’s Got Talent scout about an audition in Orlando, Florida. Though they were reluctant at first, Nicolas and Richard decided to audition. A month later, they were in New York City, auditioning for the judges: Sharon Osbourne, Howard Stern and Howie Mandel.
“After our performance we got this enormous reaction. My dad and I, we just looked at each other and knew we should keep going,” recalled Nicholas. “We were just excited to be a part of it. I think, to us, we had a different stand point. For some people it’s kind of a make-or-break situation. We were excited to be around so many talented people. I really didn’t expect to win.”
But on Sept. 13, 2012, the Olate Dogs were voted as the winners of season seven and the first non-musical act to take home the $1 million prize.
Before reaching national acclaim though, the Olate family history began humbly in Santiago, Chile.
A Family Circus
As a boy, Richard Olate, the youngest of 22 children and a third-generation circus performer, grew up in extreme poverty and would work multiple jobs to help provide for his family. The streets of Chile both inspired him and gave him a place to practice his dog-trick routine. One day Richard found a stray dog and, with the help of his mother’s background in the circus, began teaching it tricks. By age 12 he was supporting his family with a full-blown dog act. Eventually his brother, Jose, joined the act and they performed as the Olate Brothers. Finally, in 1989, the brothers found themselves in the U.S., working with various circus groups such as Circus Vargas and Big Apple Circus.
Similar to his father, Nicholas became involved in the performing arts at a young age, leaning how to dance, tumble and play the guitar.
“You’re kind of in the ring before you realize you’re performing,” said Nicholas, who began performing with his father at age six.
For Nicholas, the circus lifestyle has been a part of him since longer than he can remember. In an interview with Tails Pet Magazine, he said, “The thing with [the] circus is that it’s such a good community. It’s like a neighborhood but on a smaller scale. Everybody is so loving. When my mom had to work and couldn’t watch me, the next mom would. There are so many families in the circus, and they all take care of each other.”
For years, Nicholas, Richard, Rebecca and Jose Olate traveled and performed as a family. After Rebecca and Jose eventually left the act, Nicholas and Richard continued as a father-and-son act, slowly working their way up to the renowned pair they are now.
And for Nicholas, it’s all about their father-son dynamic.
“My dad and I are very comfortable with each other. I think it adds to our act,” he said. “It’s not the same as if it’s like two friends. It’s more of a family bond, and I think that people can see in our performances.”
Since the America’s Got Talent win, the Olate family has continued to rescue and train dogs for their act, with 10 dogs, mostly poodle mixes, on rotation and another six in training. They’ve headlined the America’s Got Talent Live in Las Vegas show at the Palazzo Theatre, have appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and have released a holiday album, “The Olate Dogs’ Christmas” as well as a six-minute short film titled, “Le Sauvetage (The Rescue).”
In the spirit of keeping busy, they’ve also expanded their live act to become more of a variety act.
So what can people expect from their performances?
“Fun,” said Nicholas with a laugh.
In addition to the tricks performed on America’s Got Talent, the dogs have been working on new tricks and stunts, as well as a comedy routine.
“There will be some singing, some juggling as well,” said Nicholas. “We’re just trying to make it as entertaining as possible, and I think people will really enjoy it.”