Genre: Documentary, Music
Directed by: Adam Del Deo & James Stern
Starring: Bob Avian, Justin Bellero, Michael Bennett
If ever there were a perfect musical for a documentary, it would be A Chorus Line. The idea for the show itself came from several taped workshops wherein Broadway dancers where invited to talk about the business, their childhoods and their lives. Choreographer and dancer Michael Bennett and co-choreographer Bob Avian, along with Marvin Hamlisch, used these to compose and write the musical now known as A Chorus Line.
Though it doesn’t follow the traditional storytelling arcs of beginning, middle and end, the ‘story’ of the musical so to speak is of dancers auditioning for a chorus line in an unnamed musical. There are seventeen dancers to be exact, though the director, Zach, is only looking for four boys and four girls. Unconventionally, he asks them to tell them about their lives, and, though reluctantly, one by one they open up.
Technically, it’s an impressive show; the dance numbers are intricate and demanding, as are the songs – anyone trying to sing Maggie’s part of ‘At the Ballet’ can tell you that. However, in a sea of big budget, flamboyant shows like Wicked, Phantom or Les Mis, A Chorus Line stands out in its simplicity. There are no grandiose sets or glamorous costumes – just seventeen dancers in a line, dressed in workout clothes, dancing and singing their hearts out. Any performer can instantly connect with the wide range of characters and this is what makes it as iconic as it has become.
Every Little Step documents the process of casting for the 2008 Broadway revival of A Chorus Line, as well as telling the story of the conception of the original run. The documentary doesn’t shy away from the legacy of the show. For the uninitiated, it’s both a great advertisement for the musical and a great introduction to Broadway, in particular the business of it all. At the same time, it’s intimate enough about the creation of the show – as told by members of the original cast and crew – that die-hard A Chorus Line fans will also find lots to love here, such as the history of specific songs and the last minute changes that ended up making a crucial difference.
It’s funny, emotional (look out for the ‘Paul’ auditions) and sassy. It’s very, very raw and very, very real. At points, it’s even unexpectedly exciting. It follows several of those auditioning for the revival, including people going for the same part, and so the suspense exists through the audience wondering which one is going to succeed.
At its core, A Chorus Line is about the struggles of a performer in all forms: emotionally, physically and psychologically. How it will exhaust you in every sense of the word but you’ll keep coming back for more. It shows that these people are there because there’s nothing else in the world they’d rather be doing. Every Little Step mirrors this perfectly, not only by having those auditioning telling you how hard it is to ‘make it’, but showing each step of the way in such punishing detail that you’d know it without them saying anything at all.
As one auditionee said it perfectly: “It takes your gut – it takes your soul. But you’re willing to give it.”