A documentary about dancers auditioning for a musical about dancers auditioning for a musical. And it's magical and not only toe-tapping but improbably, overwhelmingly moving.
Each week, veteran film critic Bill Wine will look back at an important film that is worth watching, either for the first time or again.
It was at one point the longest-running musical in Broadway history, winning nine Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize as it danced its way into our hearts and collective consciousness, its appeal as primal and unadorned as its title:
“A Chorus Line.”
We think of it as THE dance show. And it is. But we sometimes forget that a big component, maybe the biggest component, in what made and makes it irresistible is the score: those infectious melodies (by Marvin Hamlisch) and brilliant lyrics (by Edward Kleban) that stay with us -- haunt us, really -- long after we experience them.
That's never been more clear than during “Every Little Step, (2007) a perfect -- there, I typed it: perfect -- documentary that uses auditions for the 2006 Broadway revival as a springboard to explore the origins and development of the smash international hit that was created and masterminded by Tony-winning director and choreographer Michael Bennett.
Remember how sitting through the behind-the-scenes stage musical about chorus kids dreaming the dream and bucking the odds made you feel? Well, “Every Little Step” makes you feel the same way: alive, exuberant, grateful, stimulated, fortunate to be in its presence.
It is, in essence, a documentary about dancers auditioning for a musical about dancers auditioning for a musical. And it's magical and not only toe-tapping but improbably, overwhelmingly moving.
Co-directors James D. Stern and Adam Del Deo borrow the structure of the show itself and lay it over their smartly edited doc to brilliant effect. We find ourselves hanging on every word and staring intently at every image. And their movie works on us just as the original show did, with the bitter taste of rejection keeping us grounded, with privileged moments galore to savor, and with more dramatic highlights to never forget than most fictional narratives deliver.
If you loved the stage show and its 1985 movie incarnation, chances are you'll appreciate this version as well. And if you appreciated the original play but not the movie, this documentary will restore your faith in the sparkling material. Oh, heck, the feeling from this corner is: how could anyone not enjoy this film? In this era of reality entertainment, here's a reality musical that puts most reality TV to shame.
You'll emerge from this gem knowing in your bones why the audition process is such a cruel and intimidating ordeal for performers, and why “A Chorus Line” was a runaway -- that is, danceaway -- worldwide phenomenon.
This dazzling dance docu-musical is one singular sensation. Step right up, because every little step taken by “Every Little Step” is the right step.
Bill Wine is an Emmy-winning film critic who served in that capacity for WTXF and KYW Newsradio. He lives in Chestnut Hill.