ND/NF: Every Little Step reminds us of one singular sensation

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“A Chorus Line”, arguably one of Broadway’s most successful musicals, doesn’t seem at first to be an everyman’s show. This is a musical about the casting of a musical, almost a self-indulgent exercise in the love of the stage, for and by the actors and producers of such a production. Its magnanimous success, though, is a testament to how truly audiences did connect with it: the show originally opened in 1975, played for 6137 performances until 1990, and holds the crown of Broadway’s longest running musical production. And then came opening night in 2006…. “A Chorus Line” began its revival.

And this is where Every Little Step comes in, a documentary about the casting of a musical about the casting of the musical. Don’t fear: this film is not an exercise on meta storytelling (though trying to describe it does entreat one down the rabbit hole), but rather an exclusive peek into the frenzy of standing up one of Broadway’s most beloved shows…. again.

Directors James D. Stern and Adam Del Deo wrangled unfettered access to the casting process of “A Chorus Line”’s revival, and in doing so give us a documentary that breaks open the drive of the original Broadway production and illuminates beautifully the original process of bringing it to the stage in the mid 1970s, starting with the very first meeting of the minds behind it. That they tell this story through the lens of producing its revival gives them solid ground to start on, if not a convenient excuse.

What makes a musical like “A Chorus Line” so identifiable, I think, is that the audience is allowed to see these characters through their struggles onto the stage through a variety of energetic and sometimes heart-rending soliloquies. I feel Every Little Step wants to travel this terrain too, to provide a parallel track for the documentary against the musical, but misses the mark with its “real life” auditioners. The history behind building the first go around of “A Chorus Line” is what grabbed my attention the most, as we get to see the real people who provided both the inspiration and the original performances. The casting of the revival almost seems like an afterthought; even though we meet the auditioners and even pull for the ones we like best, the true energy from the documentary comes from the history of the show, not its rebirth.

Despite the remarkable (and apparently never-before granted) “all access” pass given to the filmmakers (and thereby given to the viewers), I couldn’t help but feel that this documentary lacked a certain spark of originality…. Just because cameras have never been allowed to capture the casting process of a Broadway musical doesn’t mean that a documentary about it is breaking new ground. In fact, the process seemed to go just as I would expect it to go, with maybe even more compassion than I would imagine on the part of the directors of the musical. That said, Every Little Step is an enjoyable and informative documentary, and you too might leave the theatre with these iconic songs playing in your head.

-Tom Treanor

Buy tickets to Every Little Step: Fri Mar 27: 6:15 (FSLC) and Sun Mar 29: 4:30 (MoMA)

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Explore posts in the same categories: festival dispatches, New Directors/New Films, New Voices, on @ the walter reade, what's on

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