June 18, 2009

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Every Little Step (PG-13)
Broadway veterans discuss the creation of the original production of A Chorus Line while relative newbies sing “I really need this job” during their nearly year-long audition for the revival in Every Little Step, a multi-sided gem of a movie about life as a performer and the creation of a Broadway production.

A Chorus Line is a musical about dancers desperate to land a part in the chorus line of a Broadway production. Its creator, Michael Bennett (who died in 1987 but is brought to life here through archival audio and video), wrote the play in the mid-1970s with the help of a group discussion with dancers and singers about their lives — their childhoods, their dreams, their experiences in the theater. From this he created the story of Mike (the dancer who sings “I Can Do That” about being a talented boy in his sister’s dance class), Cassie (a slightly older dancer who doesn’t want to give up on life on the stage even if it’s not going exactly as it should for her), Val (a dancer whose talent is discovered after she adds a couple of certain somethings), and others, all up for one show, all of whom have their stories told via monologues and songs during the “audition.”

From this play comes the story of Bob Avian (a part of the original production and now the director mounting this revival), Marvin Hamlisch (who wrote the music for the play — a big departure from his Hollywood successes), Donna McKechnie (the original Cassie, who won a Tony for her role), Baayork Lee (another original A Chorus Line cast member, who is now the choreographer helping to cast revival) and others.

And on top of the story of the play, of its original cast and of the hopefuls looking for a part on its new cast, we get the saga that is the creation of a Broadway production. Be a little more or do it a little less, Bob Avian tells the young performers auditioning for the parts. More or less what? More or less something — the something, the It, is both indefinable and a key part of what makes one person perfect for the part and another, equally talented person not quite right. When we get to the final callbacks, we get to see some of these potential Mikes, Cassies, Vals and other characters perform side by side, turning us into the casting team and letting us consider who we pick for the cast. Creative endeavors — even ones with clear-cut rules, with dollars-and-cents business considerations and specific deadlines — always rely on a bit of “Something” to work out right. Get that something and you have success; miss the something and even the most talented combination of people will come up with only “eh, not bad.”

Every Little Step is an exciting look behind the curtain of a Broadway production. Whether you’re a fan of A Chorus Line or just a casual viewer of musicals, you’ll feel that “God, I hope I get it” anxiety of the performers and ultimately get to appreciate the “singular sensation” that is a well-crafted production. Front row on opening night doesn’t get as in the face of theater as this movie does. A-

Rated PG-13 for some strong language including sexual references. Directed by Adam Del Deo and James D. Stern, Every Little Step is an hour and 33 minutes long and is distributed in limited release by Sony Pictures Classics. The movie is playing at Red River Theatres in Concord through Thursday, June 18, and is slated to screen at Wilton Town Hall Theater in the coming weeks.