Talk is Free Theatre shines a spotlight on depression in its latest show, Every Brilliant Thing. The one-man show stars Michael Torontow.
“It’s a heartwarming story, sad in parts, but also very funny in parts and it’s something that’s very real,” said Torontow. “It’s about a man’s exploration and how he deals with his mother’s depression.”
The title refers to a list of items, such as ice cream, that the son compiles to help his mother appreciate life. The play is also interactive with the audience as events from the past surface in the story. An audience member may be called upon to say a line, which will be given to them.
While Torontow wasn’t familiar with the play until he read the script, he does have knowledge of the subject matter through family and friends. He is also one year into the development of a musical that takes in depression and mental health issues.
The script for Every Brilliant Thing presented a challenge to Torontow because it is the first time he has carried a show on his own. Normally, he is part of an ensemble cast, in one of the lead roles or the star of the show, which has happened in the past with Talk is Free Theatre’s Candide, The Music Man, Floyd Collins and, most recently, Sweeney Todd in England.
“When I first read it (two years ago), I was scared,” he recalled. ‘I was not in a good place then but when I read it again, I started imaging how I would do it, did some actor mumbo jumbo moments to myself and, you know what, I’ve got this. The challenge for me was doing a show by myself and interacting with the audience. We’ll see how it goes but I’m not afraid of it anymore.”
Torontow came to acting and theatre later in life. He grew up in Ottawa where he trained as a classical singer. He did shows in high school and community theatre where he discovered musicals had more appeal.
In university, he initially started studying science, with the idea of becoming a doctor, but soon switched to the theatre degree program. The musical Rent marked the beginning for Torontow, who was in his early 20s at the time. While he prefers rock music to opera, classical training has proved to be invaluable throughout life.
The U.S. national tour of Mamma Mia followed and, after two years of touring, he landed the lead in Hairspray. He has also done a lot of work for television from commercials to the Family Channel series Lost and Found Music Studios which is currently in reruns on Netflix and the 2016-17 ABC television series Conviction.
He currently lives on the edge of Dundas, where he and his partner are renovating a 70-year-old house and raising seven chickens, who are pets and breakfast-egg providers. He says they’re a lot of fun and all have names.
Photo: Michael Torontow as Sweeney Todd, part of TIFT’s The Curious Voyage in London, UK. He stars in TIFT’s one man show Every Brilliant Thing Jan. 24-Feb. 2. For tickets call 705-792-1949. Claudia Brookes photo