Every Little Step

"Very Good"

Every Little Step Review


The making-of documentary -- the few seen as works in their own right and not consigned to the second disc of a special edition DVD -- is a tricky thing, as its audience is by definition limited to fans of the original work. James D. Stern and Adam Del Deo's wonderful Every Little Step (subtitle: The Journey of "A Chorus Line" From its Beginnings) goes beyond those built-in limitations by being much more about the continuing impact of a theatrical milestone than the peculiarities of how it came about.

It doesn't hurt, of course, that the directors have given themselves a couple almost unfair advantages. First, there's Marvin Hamlisch's jazzy toe-tapper of a score from the original A Chorus Line percolating through most scenes. Secondly, their structure -- tracking auditions for the musical's 2006 revival while simultaneously discussing the history of the 1975 original -- mimics, sometimes all too closely, the methodology of a reality TV show, with all its attendant, short-attention-span drama. So, yes, there is immersive and revealing Broadway history, but also a healthy dose of camera-ready gritty determination and teary-eyed rejection. It's hard to explain why it all works as well as it does, but the continual use of the show's opening number "I Hope I Get It" has a good deal to do with it, not just because of its hummability but also the striving desire it represents.

Every Little Step is essentially the story of people auditioning for a show about auditions. A Chorus Line's memorable conceit is based around an audition for a new musical, where the Broadway "gypsies" (those ridiculously well-trained but usually ignored veterans who soldier on from one show's background chorus to the next) come forward not just to strut their stuff but to talk about their lives. In between the revival audition scenes, Stern and Del Deo delve into a treasured nugget of Broadway lore, how choreographer Michael Bennett came up with his idea for the play. In short, it came down to one long winter night in 1974, when Bennett gathered a bunch of dancers and had everybody talk about their lives for 12 hours while taping everything on a reel-to-reel. The resulting tapes were surprisingly dramatic and confessional (a development most likely lubricated by the big jug of cheap red wine) and ultimately formed the dramatic nucleus of the show's multiple soliloquies.

This behind-the-scenes material is likely the aspect that theater fans would want to have seen more of. An entire other film could have been made out of whose confession was the inspiration for which scene or song lyric, or a study of how revolutionary the whole idea of A Chorus Line was at the time (Bennett and the Public Theater's director Joe Papp practically created the idea of the workshop). But smartly for the film, Stern and Del Deo spend more of their time on the people involved, from the long-in-the-tooth veterans trying for long last shot to the fresh-off-the-bus strivers to Broadway stars who still need to fight for every role.

The filmmakers understand the meta frisson of a situation in which the original's choreographer, Baayork Lee, an infectious spark-plug of energy whose interview was the basis for the character of Connie, is auditioning performers to essentially play herself. They know that it isn't just the natural drama of the audition process (all those people lined up in the rain; all those punishing, weeding-out dance routines) at play here but an extra level of tension brought up by the fact that the dancers are trying out for a part in a play that's essentially about themselves. Thus the inclusion of weighted lines like "I need this because I'm out of unemployment" or moments like the one where a dancer's tryout turns into such a powerfully emotional eruption that those conducting the audition themselves break down in tears.

There are certainly moments when Every Little Step veers too close to the reality-TV trap of quick-and-shallow identification leading up to the elimination round. But it deserves credit for not only providing a fresh take on the old cliché of the creative class (how long do you stick with your dream in the face of incredible odds?) but also for focusing on the kinds of creative professionals today's culture rarely considers. They don't want to be famous, they just want to work.

Gold uniforms? What recession!?



Every Little Step

Facts and Figures

Run time: 96 mins

In Theaters: Saturday 25th October 2008

Box Office USA: $1.5M

Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Fresh: 87 Rotten: 9

IMDB: 7.4 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Adam Del Deo, James D. Stern

Producer: Adam Del Deo, James D. Stern

Contactmusic


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