Don’t tell my mom, but I don’t really like “A Chorus Line”. I don’t find many of the songs that catchy (“One” being the exception) and since I’m not really into dance, it’s hard for me to marvel at what’s being accomplished on stage except when it’s so grand, like the opening and Cassie’s “The Music and the Mirror”, that you’d have to be blind in failing to appreciate the amount of skill and artistry that goes into making those numbers work. But ultimately, it never sold me on its main goal which is feeling the pain and drama of auditioning for a Broadway musical and devoting your entire life to the study of dance. But what “A Chorus Line” begins, the documentary “Every Little Step” finishes.
“Every Little Step” tells two stories: the first is Michael Bennett’s creation of “A Chorus Line” back in 1974 (it debuted on Broadway in 1975) and how the production came together. Through Bennett recorded conversations and taped performances combined with interviews with those involved in the production, including co-choreographer Bob Avian and original “Connie” Baayork Lee (Bennett, sadly, passed away from AIDS-related lymphoma in 1987), we get an in-depth look at how the beloved and unexpected hit show came to be. Paralleled is the 2006 revival of “A Chorus Line” where thousands of dancers put themselves on the line and experience the reality that the show itself attempted to convey.
It works as beautifully as you think it would. Watching Avian (who is now the director of the revival) and Lee (who is the revival’s choreographer) both remember the original and try to put together a cast for their new production is completely captivating. Of course, it doesn’t come close to the drama of watching real dancers go through the grueling eight-month process of competing for a space on the line.
If “Every Little Step” has a problem, it’s that I wanted more. I feel that’s a good problem to have as I wanted to experience every moment of this process and spend even more time with both the dancers and with the production crew. How do these dancers make their living when they’re waiting eight months to know whether or not they’ll have a job for the next two years of their lives? What happens if they get injured? What’s the rehearsal process like after you’ve spent almost a year making sure one person is perfect for a role?
If I can go a bit personal (and I feel it’s only appropriate as “A Chorus Line” is all about telling personal stories and how they’ve shaped our decisions in life), I’ve always wondered if I should be an actor. I acted throughout high school and received positive feedback and even earned a couple of awards. I enjoy entertaining other people and playing characters and telling stories. But everyone said that to really live life as an actor, you have to love it with all your body and soul and you do it not because you want to, but because you have to. I didn’t feel that intense passion but I’ve always wondered if I could have made it.
After watching “Every Little Step”, the answer is clearly “No.” It’s not even a matter of ability, but this is passion in motion. This is what folks talk about when they speak about the complete and utter devotion to craft. And this isn’t just acting. These people have to be the best dancers, singers, AND actors. They need the trifecta. To everyone on “Ameican Idol” or “America’s Got Talent”, you are nothing compared to these people. The amount of work and talent and dedication these folks must put in and what little pay off they may end up receiving from it-it would be insane if you didn’t understand that these people have no choice. When you watch the movie, you don’t think these people are mad. You think that they have so much ability that it’s a crime for them to be unemployed and that if they don’t land a job in the revival, they need to land it somewhere because the artistic world is missing something wonderful without these rare individuals.
The biggest tragedy of “Every Little Step” is that so few people will probably end up seeing it. You don’t need to have seen “A Chorus Line” but it helps. Moreover, most folks just don’t care about the process. They like their singing, their dancing, and their acting but they like it piecemeal which is why shows like “Dancing with the Stars” and “American Idol” find success. I may not love “A Chorus Line” but it deepened my appreciation for this wonderful documentary and while I may not possess half the desire and ability of its subjects, I was absolutely enraptured by the art they conjured. My only hope is that directors Adam Del Deo and James D. Stern release every second of footage they shot so I can prolong the magic.
Rating —– A minus