Dirs. James D. Stern, Adam Del DeoUS. 2008. 96 mins.
Every Little Stepis ‘the making of the remaking of ’ The backstage documentary witnesses the emotional casting of the 2006 Broadway revival of the now-classic backstage musical,A Chorus Line, which played from 1975 to 1990.
Consumers are accustomed to getting ‘making of’ documentaries at no charge on dvd’s, and theatrical release of any documentary is a risk, yet more than 6 million people saw A Chorus Line in its original run, and the crowd-pleasing documentary can build on that audience. Poignant testimony about being gay, heard in archival audio from the original musical’s choreographer/director, Michael Bennett (1937-1985), connects the film to another sizable audience. Foreign interest should not be underestimated. Tourists came from all over the world to see A Chorus Line, yet television seems the most likely medium for this tribute. Theatre fans should make for a strong market for home video.
Filmmakers James D. Stern and Adam Del Deo were commissioned by John Breglio, the lawyer for Bennett’s estate and the revival’s producer, to observe the 2006 audition process. This happens largely through the eyes of Michael Avian, the show’s original co-choreographer. With Avian directing and the original cast member Baayork Lee choreographing, hundreds of dancers are herded through a whirlwind of numbers. They belt out songs and whisper ambitious thoughts. For all their bravado and tears, most get rejection: a polite ‘thank you.’
Once the 2006 herd is culled down, the documentary focuses on the lives of a few finalists. They echo the vulnerable, striving and mostly impoverished dancers - Bennett called them Broadway ‘gypsies’ — whose conversations about their work with Bennett in 1974 were distilled into the musical’s book.
Both filmmakers are veterans of the theatre (as producers) and they know how to convey the frenzy of the audition process. The history of the show opens up as they interweave previously unheard tape recordings from Bennett’s 1974 ‘gypsy’ talks, along with interviews with composer Marvin Hamlisch. Still photographs of the youthful original cast and crew are vivid reminders of the passage of time.
The frank talks with Bennett and the show’s lineage lift the film above the motivational achievement model of Spellbound or Mad Hot Ballroom.
Avian, who presides over the casting process, also sets an avuncular humane tone (to an inevitably painful experience), which could not be farther from the calculated cruelty of American Idol or the inanity of that television show’s many imitators.
Every Little Step barely shows the finished revival itself - a feature film of A Chorus Line was made in 1985 - yet the documentary, edited down from some 400 hours, is packed with crowd-pleasing moments which make it far more than an infomercial for Chorus Line, Inc.
International Sales Agent
James D. Stern
Adam Del Deo
Douglas E. Hansen
Christopher C. Chen
Jessica Lee Goldyn