ONLY IN NEW YORK
The next time you pass through Times Square, be sure to wave at the tricked out tour bus with windows that soar to the ceiling, flashing LED lights, and a pounding sound system. The Ride, an interactive tour of midtown Manhattan designed by 3D pop artist Charles Fazzino, is a spectacle inside and out.
Three rows of stadium style seats face the windowed outer wall of the bus, allowing for views to the top of the Chrysler building; techno music blasts through the surround sound system; 40 video screens display Fazzino’s renditions of New York’s most famous architectural landmarks; and two tour guides (Stewart and Julia on my night) lead the ride around Times Square. What other tour bus has its own catchy theme song, composed by Patrick Noth, that riders are encouraged to rap along with by the tour’s end?
Written and directed by Richard Humphrey, The Ride is a piece of careful choreography that takes the city streets as its stage. The Ride shows off sites such as Grand Central Terminal, Bryant Park, Radio City Music Hall, and every Duane Reade in sight while syncing up with skilled street performers en route. The tour kicks off in Times Square with a mic’d performer leading the riders in a New Year’s countdown. On 3rd Avenue, an angry bypasser throws down his cell phone and breaks into a hip-hop routine. “It’s true, when New Yorkers are angry, they just rip off their clothes and dance!” quips Julia. A freestyle rapper on 8th Avenue flows with the sidewalk traffic, and a ballerina in a glowing tutu twirls around passersby a few blocks away. With the help of smart sound design by Brett Jarvis and bright costumes on less populated street corners, the performers are never lost in the crowd.
One of the most fascinating aspects of The Ride is how everyone becomes a performer in the experience, both inside and outside the bus. It is perfect for people watching; random tourists and New Yorkers become as much a part of the tour as the plotted performers. The bus riders perform to an audience, as well; tourists outside the bus continually stop on the sidewalks to wave and take photos of the massive moving theater, and the bus riders enthusiastically give The Ride a wave back.
The tour is peppered with prerecorded historical tidbits, rather dully narrated by Charles Fazzino himself. Yet the real point of the Ride is not historical depth, but immersive playfulness. New York trivia questions – “Like Cash Cab, but without the cash or the cab!” – and Julia and Stewart, strong improvisers, keep the event silly and self-aware with light banter about the city and its diverse residents and visitors. They also offer genuinely valuable advice for tourists, telling them to leave Times Square for a good meal and to seek theater tickets beyond the TKTS in Times Square.
The Ride is a whimsical, Disneyesque experience that I suspect tourists will enjoy more than cynical New Yorkers – but the fun is admittedly contagious. When everyone on the bus wholeheartedly embraces The Ride, the energy and enthusiasm overflows. Belting “New York, New York” in the final minutes of the tour with lyrics projected onto video monitors across the super bus and karaoke microphones in hand, the riders clearly want to be a part it.
presented by Richard Humphrey
streets of New York City
departs from 42nd & 8th (Señor Frogs)
for tickets, call 212.221.0853
or visit Experience the Ride
Box Office tickets also available at:
Madame Tussauds Lobby on 42nd St
and 1200 6th Ave at 47th St