Directed by: Adam Del Deo and James D. Stern (… So Goes the Nation)
Starring: Michael Bennett, Bob Avian, Jay Binder, Baayork Lee, Marvin Hamlisch
For anyone who’s a fan of A Chorus Line, or musical theater in general, go ahead and bump this review up a half star—maybe even a whole star—and have fun. For everyone else (admittedly, myself included), well, Every Little Step is probably not your film, which is something even the filmmakers seem to be aware of.
Being that this is a documentary of the long-running Broadway show, directors Adam Del Deo and James D. Stern (… So Goes the Nation) assume you have a cursory grasp of A Chorus Line. The film is less about A Chorus Line or reiterating its plot or importance, and more about its creation and what makes it so important to its fans and the people who are involved with it.
The film follows the creation of A Chorus Line through tape-recorded conversations from 1974 between choreographer and dancer Michael Bennett and his fellow dancers. Bennett’s idea was to cull a show from the stories of these struggling performers, to pay tribute to them, and to give their often-neglected tales a chance to be heard. A Chorus Line debuted in 1975, with Bennett as director. Because Bennett passed away in 1987, most of this is shown here through old photographs and talking-head interviews—an aspect of the film that errs a bit too much on the Ken Burns-style of documentary.
Playing with the fact that A Chorus Line is a show about auditioning for a Broadway show, Del Deo and Stern have set their film against the backdrop of modern-day performers trying out for a revival of A Chorus Line—an arduous, time-consuming process: The idea is to get a look at the dreams and aspirations that drive these unknown performers. For the most part, this makes up the biggest chunk of the film’s emotional center. The problem is we’re never given the chance to really get to know any of these hopefuls. Sure, a handful of players are followed around or interviewed, but there are so many stories and individuals to keep up with that the film simply becomes unfocused. And as a result, there’s no one to truly root for, a significant downside for a film that hinges on the audience feeling a connection to these underdog performers.
Those not familiar with A Chorus Line might end up scratching their heads wondering what the big deal is. But for people with a love for the stage, for those who have gone on auditions, dreamt of being stars or are simply just in love with A Chorus Line, then this movie is for you. And if it is for you, catch it quickly—because by Friday it will be history. Rated PG-13 for some strong language, including sexual references.