Every Little Step
Directed by James D. Stern, Adam Del Deo. (2009, PG-13, 96 min.)
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., June 5, 2009
1974: A group of 18 Broadway dancers gather in a room. They aren't the stars of the Great White Way but the gypsies who journey from one show's chorus to another. The choreographer Michael Bennett addresses them: "I think that we're all pretty interesting." How interesting? Twelve hours later, Bennett walks out of the room with the raw material for his Tony Award-winning production A Chorus Line, armed with enduring stories of plastic surgery and sexual confusion and a by-any-means-necessary religiosity about dance. A quarter of a century later, another Broadway aspirant wonders aloud, “Who am I if not a dancer?" It could have been a moment from the musical, not real life, which will happen again and again in this pleasingly meta documentary about the 2006 Broadway revival of A Chorus Line, which intersperses Bennett's never-before-heard recorded roundtable and interviews with key players, such as composer Marvin Hamlisch, with scenes from the exhaustive search for a new cast. Every Little Step marks the first time outside cameras were allowed access into the audition process (and the quality of the camerawork – muddy-seeming and uneven – bolsters that behind-closed-doors feel). This one's the mother of all auditions: 1,700 showed up, and the first cut was based on one's ability to nail two pirouettes. Initially, it's difficult to distinguish the dancers – they're more recognizable for the roles they're auditioning for than for their own unique backstories – but as the numbers whittle down, the personalities emerge, and the film gets, well, personal. (The neck-in-neck callbacks for the parts of Cassie and Val are particularly gripping, and yep, there's even a comes-from-behind surprise.) Every Little Step isn't the most cleanly structured documentary, and a haphazard end credits reel deflates the thumpingness of the film's conclusion (set, as with the show, to the soaring all-company number "One"). Still, the filmmakers nicely mix the historical and the tributary, honoring both Bennett's cultural landmark and the dancers who dream of joining its ranks.