Bumbug the Musical: Heartfelt Take On a Christmas Classic Through an Immigrant’s Eyes (WBRi Review)

By Saniya Tabani

Saniya is a recent graduate of New York University currently working at Weill Cornell as a research assistant, and an avid enthusiast of all things South Asian. Born a Bollywood aficionado, Saniya loves to frequent the cinemas and write reviews on current films. She also enjoys exploring various events and people around the city. In her spare time she can be caught marathoning a favorite TV show or having chaat in her hometown of Edison, NJ.

A scene from Bumbug - the Musical

New York, NY, Dec 14, 2012 (Washington Bangla Radio) No holiday season is complete without discovering a new rendition of Charles Dickens’ infamous “A Christmas Carol”; and with Bumbug, the Musical, you’ve got a holiday classic retold from an immigrant standpoint, set in the cultural cross section of Queens, New York. With Samrat Chakrabarti and Sanjiv Jhaveri penning the book and lyrics to this pop rock musical, and Chakbrabarti at the helm of the band providing us with the fun and energetic tracks, Bumbug stands out as an earnest musical that has an approachability for all cultures because of its theme but also a special treat for South Asian culture aficionados with lots of Bollywood references thrown in.

We first meet the protagonist dubbed Scroogewala (Andrew Ramcharan Guilarte) grumpily uttering “Buckwaas Bumnug” and working away at his Deli mart, refusing to acknowledge any Christmassy shenanigans due to his perpetual anger at all the opportunities this land of plenty has failed to give him. Enter Sunita (Lipica Shah) a sweet and convincingly conflicted girl who wants to follow her version of the American dream by becoming a successful writer, but is caving under the pressure of her overtly sacrificing immigrant parents to become a doctor and marry rich. They share a connection – not quite sure over what – but go their separate ways after Sunita is coined an ABCD (American Born Confused Desi) by the pessimistic Scroogewala. What follows is less a tale of holiday spirit and more a story of self-discovery and realization – something that may work against an audience hoping for a story of Christmas redemption.

The highlights of the musical are definitely the energetic performances and foot tapping music. This pop rock soundtrack is infused with some R&B and has influences of Indian music that makes for great listening. Besides Guilarte and Shah’s heartfelt performances, Adrienne C. Moore, who plays the Angel guiding Scroogewala, does a beautiful job of navigating the audience and the characters through the musical with her powerful voice. The “Aaja Aaja” sequence is a fun ode to yesteryear Bollywood films with Falu doing a spectacular job of playing the desperate mother trying to get her daughter married, and in another role, playing the kind and supportive mother. Subsequently, Debargo Sanyal, also does a good job of playing two different spectrums of the Indian parent – sacrificing and caring… and sacrificing and menacing.

Broadway Review Bumbug the Musical Theater Play New York

The pitfalls of the musical lie in the depth of the story; for a fun and short musical, it somewhat works. But as an adaptation of a Christmas Carol, more is expected of the plot that falls somewhat flat. One gripe is that considering the story comes from a South Asian writer, more could have been done to dispel the commonly seen stereotypes of the angry deli worker or the gold digging South Asian mother.

Overall, Bumbug does a great job of conveying the ideas in all our favorite holiday classics: follow your dreams and don’t give up on love. It tackles the immigrant plight of coming to this country and not always finding the success one hoped for and how they hold grudges against those with the privilege of being born here. But it also reinforces the idea, as told by the Angel, that immigrant, native or ABCD, “we’re all more similar than different”.