Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Corporate backing makes 'The Last Timbit' a big deal in a shrinking sector, team says

TORONTO — The subject "secret musical" piqued Kimberly-Ann Truong's interest when it showed up in her inbox, and the email's contents sent her imagination running wild.
Theatre producer Michael Rubinoff poses at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto, Tuesday, April 9, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

TORONTO — The subject "secret musical" piqued Kimberly-Ann Truong's interest when it showed up in her inbox, and the email's contents sent her imagination running wild.

The message showed the mystery project had already attracted collaborators with an impressive pedigree, including Michael Rubinoff producing and Brian Hill as director.

"And then Michael and Brian got on a Zoom call with me — just us — and they told me everything," she recalled in a recent video call.

"And I was like, 'What do you mean Tim Hortons?'"

Truong was one of the first actors to sign on to "The Last Timbit," a musical commissioned by the coffee-and-doughnut behemoth that's set to hit a Toronto stage in a matter of days.

Truong was tapped to workshop the production, and has since been joined in the cast by Chilina Kennedy, who starred in the Broadway production of "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical."

Rubinoff, best known for producing "Come From Away" and Hill, whose directing credits include national tours and Broadway productions, didn't have to do much to convince Truong of their vision.

"Immediately I was like, this is the most brilliant thing I've ever heard. Like, my whole body was shaking," said Truong, who had a recurring role on "Run the Burbs" and was in the 2017 Broadway revival of "Miss Saigon."

The vision for the musical began — as all great works of art do — with an advertising agency.

Tim Hortons asked Gut Toronto to come up with ideas to celebrate its 60th anniversary, and a stage production was on its list.

The production, with music by Britta Johnson and Anika Johnson and a book by Nick Green, is loosely based on a massive blizzard in 2010 that stranded a group of drivers in a Tim Hortons in Sarnia, Ont.

Initially, Rubinoff said, Gut reached out to him to consult on the project, but when he learned they planned to make a musical about Canadians coming together at a Tim Hortons, he wanted to get involved.

"Everybody is on the same page about wanting to create something that is going to — that has to — resonate with audiences to be successful," he said. "So for me, we've approached this in the way that we would approach the development of any musical."

The biggest difference, he said, is the scale of the project.

Though "The Last Timbit" runs only from June 26 to 30, Rubinoff said it's uncommon for a brand-new musical to have this big of a rollout.

"This gives us the opportunity to do this new musical by these great writers with this great cast on the stage of the Elgin Theatre, which I call a palace. It's one of our largest theatre venues in the country that doesn't see a lot of new musicals. We see a lot of American tours that come through," he said.

"Here's an opportunity to plant our Canadian flag pretty solidly in content because it is a Canadian story. It's created by Canadians, it's performed by Canadians."

Kennedy, who will star as Michelle, said she's been part of many productions in their early stages.

In addition to originating the titular role in the Carole King jukebox musical, she starred in "A Sign of the Times," a 1960s-set jukebox musical, and wrote the music and lyrics for "Wild About You," which was presented in concert style on London's West End and is still in development.

She said having Tim Hortons backing this project has given it a huge boost and she hopes other big brands take note.

"The arts need to be funded," she said. "That's just the nature of what we do."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 21, 2024.

Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press