A Chorus Line does not wait. From the first line of the opening number ‘I Hope I Get It’, the show launches into an incredible frenzy of energy. It continues all the way through, sometimes sombre and sometimes elated but always pumping. It’s electric, and it’s the reason why the musical went on to smash records, nab a handful of prestigious Tonys, a Pulitzer and become the longest running US musical on Broadway. With music written by Marvin Hamlisch and lyrics by Edward Kleban, A Chorus Line kicked its way on to the stage in 1975, a huge success.
For the Broadway revival in 2006, directors Adam del Deo and James Stern followed the audition process, meeting dancers and documenting the entire casting process of the production. The end result is Every Little Step, a cleverly constructed documentary which intertwines the history of the seminal musical with the open auditions, the cuts, the callbacks, the final callbacks and the final-final callbacks. It’s grueling, breathtaking and heart-wrenching watching the young hopefuls sing and dance for the lives. The pain and rejection too can at times come off arbitrary for the audience who, untrained, can’t see the things that casting panel can.
The correlation between life and art is stunning here – a documentary on dancers auditioning for a musical about dancers auditioning for a musical. Beginning with A Chorus Line’s genesis, fans of the show will delight to see how each character was created, born of a different dancer’s story, as the film uses the original recordings. These recordings pop up through the rest of the film, with several of the characters being zoomed in on and the creative team waxing lyrical about exactly what that character is all about. Some have relatively little time devoted to them, like Paul, who recounts his dancing in drag as part of a male revue on 42nd St, his role filled early in proceedings. Others, like Sheila, the older dancer, take focus in a sizeable chunk of the film because she’s just difficult to cast. Many of the dancers impress beyond belief through the whole process, but it never seems enough. All you can do is wonder when your favourite (you will pick favourites very quickly) will get their break.
The film is also peppered with auditionee interviews, many of whom tell of their aspirations and their history. It’s somewhat interesting, but mercifully, the film doesn’t dwell upon them or expect the audience to care too much. Del Deo and Stern understand that the original musical is about a macroscopic view of the dancers, but here the scope is bigger.
Tight editing helps the film to pace well and sound fabulous, often cutting between various audition renditions of the show’s numbers without missing a beat. But it’s main effect is something really astounding – Every Little Step manages to emulate a surprising amount of the real production’s electricity and thrill, which is something the abysmal 1985 film adaptation couldn’t even manage.
You will love it if: you are a fan of A Chorus Line or Broadway in general.
You will hate it if: you think Broadway is just the name of a shopping center.
Every Little Step is in cinemas now.