A Chorus Line was one of Broadway's groundbreaking musicals, not only because of its construction but in the way it was conceived and workshopped, using real interviews that director and choreographer Michael Bennett conducted with Broadway dancers and actors. The show, which features music by Marvin Hamlisch, book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante and lyrics by Edward Kleban, lasted forever in its first Broadway run and still resonates with anyone who ever auditioned. For anything.
The new documentary Every Little Step, opening at the Angelika Film Center in Dallas and Plano on May 22 and at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth on June 12, chronicles the musical's creation using archival footage and audio from the late Michael Bennett. There are also current interviews with folks involved in the original production, including Donna McKechnie (who won a Tony for playing Cassie) and Baayork Lee (Connie).
But instead of making this a straightforward doc about a piece of Broadway history, the co-directors James D. Stern and Adam Del Deo came up with a more interesting concept. The film crew followed the auditions for the 2006 Broadway revival of A Chorus Line, from the beginning process all the way to final callbacks and opening night. The result is a fascinating look at the audition process, mirroring the story of the original musical. Every Little Step offers insight into the motivations of those who are driven to dance and perform on the world's biggest stage.
This might seem like something that would only be of interest to hardcore musical and dance fans. But given that American Idol has been chronicling the contemporary state of auditions for eight years now, and to great success, this film might actually have a shot at audiences who normally wouldn't give a damn about musicals. The big difference is that everyone who auditions for a tough dance show like A Chorus Line is skilled at their craft. Self-delusion rarely enters the picture. It may not be as funny as those first four weeks of any American Idol season, but the emotional payoff is much higher.
Along the way there some wonderful tidbits about the show itself, such as the (smart) decision to change the name of one of the show's most famous songs, Dance: Ten; Looks: Three. It was originally called—you guessed it—Tits and Ass, which left no surprise to those who read the program before curtain. And yes, because they're dealing with artists, there is some drama and ego to contend with.
TheaterJones chatted with co-director/producer Adam Del Deo, who talked about the goal of making parallels between the original musical and the contemporary quest of those auditioning to be on the Great White Way...not to mention part of a documentary about that quest.
You honestly root for every one of these Broadway hopefuls. You hope they get it.
Note: You can view TheaterJones' video interview with Donna McKechnie earlier this year here.