Part tribute to A Chorus Line creator Michael Bennett and part comparative chronicle of both the 1975 original and 2006 Broadway revival of his Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical, Every Little Step covers a lot of ground in 90 minutes. There’s plenty of memorable material, from Bennett’s reel-to-reel audio recordings that became the basis for the show’s celebrated monologues to candid footage on stage and off, archival and new. The film imbues it all with a respect for performance that reflects that of the play’s creator, documenting the revival’s rigorous casting process with affection and awe.
Although it makes for a pleasing package, the decision to interweave accounts of the show’s conception with auditions for its revival makes for a contrast that’s perhaps unavoidably unflattering for the latter. The original was a long-gestating masterwork of magical humanism, and the 2006 version is an attempt to honor and approximate the spirit of that model. A painstaking, organic creation based on the life stories of Broadway chorus girls and boys, A Chorus Line managed to retain individuality and authenticity from first to last in its depiction of a spectrum of neglected types. Bennett had recorded twelve hours of conversations with Broadway’s overlooked heroes—the chorus girls and boys that bounced from show to show and audition to audition—and devised a play that could showcase their stories. “I think you’re all interesting,” he told those gathered. “And I think there’s a show in that.” Some performers, like Baayork Lee and Donna McKechnie, played characters largely based upon themselves. Part of a long tradition of backstage musicals, A Chorus Line transcended the genre by turning it inside out: rather than melodrama in another guise, it sought a unique form that could best present its subjects, a form that emerged as a straight line over which the mess of life could stagger. It remains one of the great achievements of the American stage.
Click here to read the rest of Eric Hynes’s review of Every Little Step.