New Jersey Star Ledger
By Meredith Galante
October 29, 2010
The paparazzo snaps his camera at the purple glowing bus passing down 48th Street. Then he turns and photographs a man walking with his companion on the sidewalk.
The man becomes angered and attempts to throw a punch at the photographer, before his friend holds him back.
Was that part of the show? Or is that just New York?
It’s “Experience: The Ride,” a new “bus theater” production that provides insight into the city’s most famous landmarks, including the Empire State Building, the New York Public Library, Central Park and other attractions. This unusual-looking tour bus, decorated with 3,000 mood-enhancing LED lights, playfully claims it is a government experiment to document and research New Yorkers.
The Ride blurs the line between reality and fiction. Its gimmick is not always letting you know for sure if the ballet dancer with a thousand lights on her tutu, the street opera singer, the paparazzi and the dancing deliveryman are a part of the show.
“The intent was to put together a New York experience that is sort of a love letter to New Yorkers and to tourists,” said Jonathan Danforth, CEO and president of the Ride.
The interactive, 75-minute experience incorporates 40 video monitors on the bus and 15 street actors along a 4.2 mile route.
Scott and Jackie, the Ride co-hosts (played by different actors on different rides), provide fun facts along the way, but their flirty banter adds an unnecessary distraction to the experience.
The Ride itself becomes a character whose prerecorded voices talk to Scott, Jackie and the bus riders throughout the tour. It plays music, provides information on buildings it passes and predicts human behavior. The Ride inserts dry humor to counteract Scott and Jackie’s bubbly improvisation and, for extra laughs, shows live videos of passengers aboard.
Among the street actors seen during the tour, New Year’s Eve Guy provides the first comedic interaction, claiming he has been partying in Times Square since the turn of the millennium because he loves the holiday so much. With noisemakers and a party hat for the occasion, New Year’s Eve Guy runs up to people on the street, trying to celebrate. Most tourists reject his hugs, but that doesn’t stop him from partying.
Each ride provides a personalized experience for its passengers. The set of real people on the street varies, along with traffic and weather that alters the show.
Tourists and New Yorkers gaze at the bus, puzzled at the unusual sight. Passengers sit sideways, and people on the street can see them. Some take pictures, while others wave or try to be part of the show.
“People will walk away with an experience they had not had before that shows them new aspects and views of New York,” said Danforth. “And I hope it leaves them with a feeling of camaraderie with their fellow riders and the people on the streets of New York.”
During the show, real New York can get in the way of seeing certain performances. When a truck obscures the view, the Ride suggests honking or deploying a missile to destroy it. Street actors also have extended dance performances when the Ride is stuck at a red light.
When the Ride returns to its port at the Marriott Marquis, Scott and Jackie say their farewells to the riders with “New York, New York” playing in the background — a nice cap for an experience that offers patrons an opportunity “to be a part of it,” in the heart of “the city that doesn’t sleep.”
Where: 46th Street and Broadway, New York; the box office is outside the Marriott Marquis hotel.
When: Rides are at 15-minute intervals, seven days a week. Hours vary, though rides usually start at noon Thursday-Sunday and at 7 p.m. Monday-Wednesday.
How much: $59 (non-peak) and $65 (peak). Call (646)289-5060 or visit experiencetheride.com.