Midtown Manhattan (and Times Square in particular) has become "Disneyfied" like a theme park attraction ever since the city cleaned up the area and traded sex stores, junkies, and tramps for storefronts, jumbotrons, and tourists. It's a lot to take in, especially for those who travel in and try to jam-pack as much of the city as they can into a short visit. For them, THE Fazzino RIDE, the glitzy follow-up to The Ride which debuted in 2011, is the perfect way to take in the city this summer.
On Eighth Avenue on Fridays and Saturdays at 8:30 p.m., riders board the technologically-advanced bus and the tacky midtown fun begins. The bus was a wonderful way to ride, with three stadium-style rows of comfortable seats that all faced sideways toward the left or driver-side and looked out large picture windows. Additionally, the roof was one gigantic window, which made viewing the sights easy and natural. Several screens showcased Charles Fazzino's famous 3D pop artwork as well as other pictures and video multimedia while tons of multicolored lights set the fun party atmosphere. Beyond that, the bus was also able to broadcast real-time video from a handheld camcorder, pump music out to the onlookers on the street, and pick up microphone signals from street performers that are part of THE Fazzino RIDE. The bus, with its own voice and cheeky personality, was even able to do a fairly accurate subway simulation, complete with rocking, screeching noises, and inaudible announcements, but without any strange riders or smells. Amazing!
But back to those placed actors: they were street performers sporadically placed along the route, who were meant to embody the essence of New York City. The first interaction set the tone for the rest of the performers: it was a guy in Times Square dressed in New Year's Eve attire who led a countdown. The silliness of seeing him pumped for the ball to drop in the middle of the summer let us all in with a wink-wink nudge-nudge to the goofiness of the part tour/part show entertainment ahead. There were a few dancers, the favorite being a ballerina with a lit tutu at Columbus Circle, and a freestyle rapper was a big crowd-pleaser; he even included that a reviewer from BroadwayWorld was aboard the bus in his rap!
In addition to these street performers, there were two hosts/tour guides aboard, named "Stewart" and "Julie." They entertained with cheesy dance moves, some interesting factoids about New York City, and a few small games, and were especially effective during stretches of less-interesting blocks, such as along Third Avenue after visiting the Chrysler Building.
However, the most interesting parts were not the hired entertainers or the tour guides, but the way that regular pedestrians and passersby interacted with the entertainers. It was like a crazy sociological experiment: if you drive a lit tour bus past someone who bursts into dance or song, what will the people on the street do? The answer: just about anything. Some dance along, some clap and wave, and some completely ignore or don't even see the situation (only in New York!). While the guides are there to point out the sights and the staged entertainers are there to give you a feel of NYC, these one-of-a-kind real interactions are what make each RIDE a unique New York experience.
Though the experience comes at a fairly high price tag, it's a great, cheesy time for groups of all kinds including family, girls' night out, and tourists. (Insider note: they do have an online summer special deal available!) It's a fun way to tour midtown from your own little party-bus bubble without dealing with walking, jostling, extreme temperatures, or smells. THE Fazzino RIDE itself is an attraction: while going through Times Square on a beautiful summer night, everyone stopped and joined in on the fun by waving, taking pictures, and singing and dancing along to Sinatra singing "New York, New York." How often does a bus ride do that?
Photo credit top: Brett Deutsch; Photo credit middle and bottom: courtesy of THE RIDE