Who hasn’t felt like a circus act when cheesy red tour buses drive by, sightseers gawking down from their second-story seats? In The Ride, a new extravaganza from spectacle-loving director Michael Counts, the sidewalks of New York are literally the show—it’s a thoroughly corporate, embarrassingly hammy Midtown bus tour that’s sometimes unexpectedly fun.
On board, spectators sit facing enormous windows—gazing out at billboards and blinking lights as the coach cruises along. Two awkward MCs explain the piece’s flimsy premise: “The Ride,” a benevolent Big Brother on wheels, traverses the country gathering information about America’s greatness. Tonight, we’ll discover why New Yorkers love their city so—by leering at some really expensive buildings.
As we drive, “surprise” performances erupt from city streets: A delivery man abandons packages to break-dance on the sidewalk; a couple in 1940s costumes re-enacts the “V-J Day kiss” in Times Square. Our hosts gushingly overexplain these displays, and fill the lulls with bland trivia.
The Ride offers occasional thrills: a chance to ogle Times Square without fighting crowds; a sudden turn into Columbus Circle, where lit-up fountains glow magically. But the show’s best parts come from bystanders’ random responses—like two passers-by improvising dance moves when “New York, New York” wafts from the bus’s speakers. Too bad The Ride‘s creators couldn’t let New York’s spectacles speak more for themselves.