Tuesday, November 24, 2009

DVD Views: Every Little Step

Every Little Step ***
Directed By:
Adam Del Deo & James D. Stern.

I have never seen A Chorus Line, either on stage on the movie version, so dispite strong reviews, I didn’t bother to see the documentary Every Little Step when it was released this summer, or when it came out on DVD. But considering that the film was one of the 15 shortlisted for the documentary Oscar this year, I decided to give it a chance over the weekend. What I found was a surprisingly entertaining, funny and ultimately moving documentary about the lives of actors. From what I gathered about A Chorus Line while watching the movie, in its own way, this documentary reflects the original vision of the Broadway show.

When A Chorus Line debuted in 1976, it became an instant success, won a bunch of Tonys and the Pulitizer Prize for Drama, and became one of the longest running shows in history. The brainchild of Michael Bennett, a dancer himself who gathered a group of his fellow dancers together and recorded the 12 hour session where they all opened up about their lives. He, and his writers, then turned these confessions into a Broadway show, where 19 actors get up to audition for a spot in the chorus line for an upcoming Broadway show.

30 Years later, Bennet dead for almost two decades, they decide to revive A Chorus Line for Broadway once again. The producers of the show hold open auditions, which thousands of people show up for. The movie follows the audition process for 8 grueling months and callback after callback, as actors show up and try their damnedest to earn a spot in the revival.

What emerges is both an homage to the original show – as we hear all the shows classic numbers (making me wonder how the hell I knew almost all of them despite the obvious disadvantage of never having seen the production), as well as a tribute to actors everywhere. Unless you are one of the lucky few celebrity actors, being a professional and making a living doing this is damn near impossible. Everyone wants to be a star, but there are not all that many spots open. During the course of the movie many dreams are made, but many more are shattered. It is not so much the people who make the show, but the ones who do not that stick out in my mind.

To a certain extent, Every Little Step is lightweight entertainment. You cannot help but think of reality shows like American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance while watching the movie (the later of which is particularly strong, since one of the choreographers from that show, Tyce Diorio is one of the auditionees for this show). But while those films celebrate amateurs, this movie is about professionals who long to work. True, they do this out of love, but also because they want to make money. There is much more sadness in this film that I expected there to be.
Every Little Step is a fine documentary of a certain type. I cannot really recall another documentary that looked with such an unblinking eye at the world of actors. The movie does justice to the musical on which is it based – at least I think it does.

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