‘Show Up, Kids!’ at Mile Square Theatre: A family show with manic energy, and lots of laughs

show up kids review


Peter Michael Marino stars in “Show Up, Kids!,” which is currently playing at The Mile Square Theatre in Hoboken.

Toddlers, tykes and their parents will laugh and laugh and laugh some more at the antics of Peter Michael Marino and his one-man show, “Show Up, Kids!” The interactive, improvisatory and family-friendly piece is running weekends through May 19 at Hoboken’s Mile Square Theatre.

Marino — he’ll tell you to call him “Pete,” since that’s what it says on the back of his T-shirt — has toured the show internationally and is credited as its writer, although much of the action and most of the fun happens on the fly. The actor/writer has an unexceptional, unassuming demeanor; he has a graying crewcut and a well-trimmed beard, and wears jeans and sneakers. He’s no Carrot Top or Pee-wee Herman, so when he runs around the stage with that kind of manic energy, it takes the audience by surprise.

The cheerful, busy set resembles Pee-wee’s Playhouse as decorated by Dr. Seuss — a whirlwind of colors, shapes and textures, with boxes of wigs and scarves, funny hats and silly banners, and more than a few rubber chickens.

The show — directed by Michole Biancosino, with scenic design by Price Fick and Emmett Grosland and lighting design by Nina Agelvis — opens with Pete attempting to introduce the star, Sally the Silly Song Singer, except she’s not feeling brave enough to perform and has left behind her regrets. What to do? Pete’s no actor, but perhaps with the help of the audience, he can cobble together something to keep everyone entertained?



That is the bare bones of the show’s story, but everything else — except for a few patter songs and set pieces — comes from the audience. If the crowd doesn’t shout out on cue, Pete will point to a youngster and incite a response. But mostly both adults and kids keep screaming for pretty much the entire running time.

One lucky little nipper even gets to come onstage and become part of the action. At the performance I attended, that child turned out to be a plucky little girl who resolutely shouted “No!” at everything Pete asked her. No matter how hard he tried, no matter what he asked, she’d giggle and defiantly yell “No!”

Disaster? Nope. Comedy gold.

What ensued was improv comedy as performed on a tightrope while juggling bowling balls. If it’s funny when Pete reacts to the responses he anticipates, it’s downright hilarious watching him wipe away the flop sweat and inventively work his way around even the most recalcitrant participant.

What should parents expect? Throw out all those rules about kids sitting quietly at the theater. In this show, the audience participates in every aspect of what happens onstage. That means that the theater resonates with screams, giggles, suggestions, questions, answers and even the occasional unsolicited comment from the inevitable smarty pants in the crowd. It all becomes part of the fun. I haven’t laughed this much in a theater in a very long time.

It helps that Pete slyly inserts quite a few jokes that only parents will get. This keeps them not just involved, but also laughing as hard as their offspring.

With so much energy, craziness and laughter, the 45-minute show lasts just long enough for mom and dad to feel like they’ve gotten their money’s worth without straining the attention span of a typical 6-year-old.

Mile Square Theatre recommends the show for age 5 or older, although quite a few parents at the performance I attended had toddlers in tow. Early readers get a chance to shine a few times, which by my reckoning makes the sweet spot somewhere between kindergarten and fourth grade, although “Show Up, Kids!” would make a delightful introduction to live theater for children of any age.

“Show Up, Kids!” runs Saturdays at 2 and 5 p.m. and Sundays at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. through May 19. For tickets, visit milesquaretheatre.org.


Since launching in September 2014, NJArts.net, a 501(c)(3) organization, has become one of the most important media outlets for the Garden State arts scene. And it has always offered its content without a subscription fee, or a paywall. Its continued existence depends on support from members of that scene, and the state’s arts lovers. Please consider making a contribution of any amount to NJArts.net via PayPal, or by sending a check made out to NJArts.net to 11 Skytop Terrace, Montclair, NJ 07043.


Custom Amount

Personal Info

Donation Total: $20.00

Explore more articles:

Leave a Comment

Sign up for our Newsletter