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Every Little Step (2009) Print E-mail
Monday, 01 June 2009
ImageThey say the simplest ideas, the ones that make you think, “I should have thought of that”, are the most ingenious.  Still, when it comes to the concept behind Every Little Step, as an amateur theater geek (I’ve met professional theater geeks and truly, I barely qualify for amateur status), I feel like I should have thought of that.  Every Little Step is a documentary about the casting of the 2006 Broadway revival of  “A Chorus Line”, once the longest running show in Great White Way history (overtaken by Cats, then The Phantom of the Opera, which is the current titleholder).  This film is about as meta as entertainment gets – it is a documentary about real people trying out for a show about fictional people trying out for a show based on real people who tried out for shows all the time in the seventies.

In 1974, Broadway director and choreographer Michael Bennett invited a group of dancers to sit around a tape recorder with a big jug of cheap red wine and talk about their lives and careers.   By the end of the experiment, he had an empty jug, a bunch of drunken dancers and twelve hours of audiotape that would form the raw material a future smash hit show/Best Musical Tony winner would spring from.  Bennett knew he had something, but he wasn’t exactly sure what.  Whatever it was, he knew one thing for sure – he would call it A Chorus LineEvery Little Step (which takes its name from a line in the show’s anthem ‘One’ – “One singular sensation, every little step she takes” but also seems to refer to every little step it takes to make it into a major Broadway production) interweaves audio from the group therapy session as well as interviews with people who were involved with the original production with footage of the eight month long casting process for the 2006 revival – from the first open call to the final callback.  The film begins with 3000 hopefuls standing in line to audition on a gray day in New York City and ends after the floodlights hit the stage on opening night.

There is a reason A Chorus Line ran for 6,137 performances to consistently packed houses.   Though few of us are dancers, we can all relate to the raw desire to somehow, some way make a dream come true.  And as the characters and their stories were taken from real people (8 of whom were actually played by the real people they were based on), they ring true.  We invest in these characters and want every single one of them to make the cut.  The show is inevitably joyous and heartbreaking at the same time.  Since Every Little Step presents us with essentially the same struggle, but with real people with real dreams, the joy and the heartbreak are multiplied exponentially.

There are 19 main characters in A Chorus LineEvery Little Step focuses on the performers auditioning for only a handful of these roles.   I assume a documentary covering the casting of all 19 roles would have been unfortunately epic and the filmmakers wisely chose to edit out all but the most interesting.   For one role, the field is narrowed to two best friends.  For another, a stars-in-her-eyes newcomer takes on veterans who, to quote both the play and the documentary, “really need this job”.   And in the search for the right person to play yet another role, we learn that a stunning performance can happen anywhere, even in a random room with fluorescent lighting for an audience of 3 who have seen so many auditions they’re bored to tears.  This one brings them to actual tears.

Directors Adam Del Deo and James D. Stern have given us a film that is exuberant and educational, crushing and thrilling.  You will walk out with a smile on your face, humming “What I Did For Love” (at least, that’s what I did).  My only minor quibble with the film is that it could have done a better job helping the audience keep the different Chorus Line characters straight.  I’ve seen the show (granted it’s been a while) and I found myself saying things like, “Wait, which one is Bebe again?”  (not out loud, of course – didn’t want to wake up the 98 year-old lady who was snoring in the seat next to me).   Unless you are like a musical hating close friend of mine (“but why do they keep breaking out in song?”), Every Little Step presents a jubilant journey you won’t want to miss out on.

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