Chronicling a Love Affair with Canadian Theatre

the last timbit

The Last Timbit At The Elgin Theatre Toronto

Happy Birthday Tim Hortons!

Tim Hortons, Canada’s phenomenally successful home-grown donut and coffee chain, is 60 years old. What will their future look like?

Well, Hortons’ senior management must have seen Something Rotten because they decided that the future is MYOO-sicals! Specifically a musical called The Last Timbit. (Timbits, by the way, are what ignorant Americans call donut holes.)

So they assembled a dream team of Canadian talent to guarantee that The Last Timbit would be a hit (I’ve heard there are hopes for a trans-Canada tour). Michael Rubinoff, who conceived the mega-hit Come From Away, signed on as producer. A script was commissioned from Nick Green who wrote Casey and Diana, a major success last season. Anika and Britta Johnson, a sister team of composer/lyricists with a distinguished list of credits handled the songs and music. Genny Sermonia, who choreographed Gypsy at Shaw along with a slew of other shows joined as choreographer. The director Brian Hill has worked on Come From Away and The Lion King on Broadway.

Hortons also poured out a ton of sugar to grace The Last Timbit with major musical talent like Chilina Kennedy, who starred as Carole King on Broadway; the mega-talented Sara Farb who has wowed audiences in works by Shakespeare and Sondheim, as well as in the long-running Harry Potter and the Cursed Child; and Jake Epstein who played opposite Kennedy on Broadway, where he also starred in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.

With a line up like that, what could possibly go wrong?

Quite a lot actually. The Last Timbit is a bland and flaccid piece of musical theatre that put me in mind of the industrial musicals [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Industrial_musical] that flourished in New York in the 50s and 60s. They employed major Broadway talent to put on private shows for employees, distributors, and franchisees of major corporations. By all accounts, they were pretty darned good; The Last Timbit not so much.

Green has concocted a story, apparently based on a real incident, about hapless travelers caught in a blizzard who seek refuge in a Tim Hortons. They are couples mostly and a few loners. All of them have a story to reveal, none of them particularly original or interesting.

As the storm rages and the night drags on, tragedy looms – the place is about to run out of timbits! Finally just one lone timbit remains. The noble crew of the store decides to keep up everyone’s spirits by staging a series of goofy competitions to determine which lucky person will get it.

In the process we get to hear everyone’s story in songs whose lyrics are often impossible to make out thanks to the sound design by Josh Liebert.

After about 75 minutes of this a snow plow appears outside and the show … just … ends.

There are actually a few highlights. Farb sings a meh song, but with such authority that we can’t help but sit up and take notice. Peter Millard, as the widower Anton, has a nice moment remembering his long dead wife in a quiet song you can actually understand. And Epstein gets some laughs as a forest ranger with vestigial social skills.

Ironically, the performer who made the greatest impression on me was 19-year-old Maya Kanashiro making her theatrical debut as Olivia. Not only are Olivia and her divorced mom (a severely underutilized Kennedy) at loggerheads but she kinda freaks when she realizes her school crush works at Horton’s. It’s a hackneyed story line to be sure but Kanashiro made it special.

Maybe the reason she stood out was that the seasoned pros surrounding her, knowing that the material they were working with was as shallow as a rain puddle, were content to skim the surface, while naive Maya decided to dig a little deeper and come up with something special – emotional truth.

The Last Timbit ran at Toronto’s Elgin Theatre for a limited run of just five days and has now closed. You didn’t miss much.

Footnote: Canada boasts the highest per capita consumption of donuts in the world.

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