EVERY LITTLE STEP (director/writer: James D. Stern/Adam Del Deo; editors: Fernando Villena/Brad Fuller; music: Marvin Hamlisch; cast: Michael Bennett, Bob Avian, Marvin Hamlisch, Baayork Lee, Donna McKechnie, Jay Binder; Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: James D. Stern/Adam Del Deo; Sony Pictures Classics; 2009)
“It says nada about Broadway that hasn’t been said better many times before.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A smug backstage showbiz doc about a Broadway revival of A Chorus Line (with the music by Marvin Hamlisch and lyrics by Edward Kleban), produced and directed by James D. Stern and Adam Del Deo (“The Year of the Yao”/ ” … So Goes the Nation”). The showbiz themes might be timeless but the thought of it bringing a new realism to the stage (as it once did) doesn’t seem to have the same legs today, when realism is now more commonly ingrained into the modern showbiz films. Also, it says nada about Broadway that hasn’t been said better many times before. The original stage show in 1975 won nine Tonys and became one of the longest running shows in Broadway history (it incredibly ran for 15 years). In 1985 Richard Attenborough directed the movie version starring Michael Douglas and it couldn’t duplicate the Broadway success, in fact it was a dud as the grit and edginess of the play was reduced to annoying glitz and plastic. This doc, about life imitating art, is not as bad as the film, but it’s nevertheless dull, superficial and pointless.
Some of the talent from the original production, now past middle-age, are ushered out to verify what the part meant to them back then and if the new fresh-faced dancers that are auditioning to play their roles measure up. We meet the new performers by way of the characters they are hoping to play, as they audition. No one from the past or present is memorable, which I guess goes with being in a chorus line, but when the dancers get their 15 minutes of fame they all appear like showbiz clichés as they vie to get a spot in the 2006 Broadway show (the open call drew 3,000 applicants, followed by a series of callbacks and then much later final callbacks). Not making the final cut is devastating, which seems obvious, but there’s no big tension generated because no character is developed so it’s hard to care about any of them. Even the story flags. It starts out being a profile of Chorus Line’s late writer-choreographer-director Michael Bennett, the “genius” (according to his colleagues), who in 1974 conceived the all-night reel-to-reel tape session out of which the show grew, is soon forgotten by the film as it instead spends some weary time trying to create drama surrounding the casting of the Broadway revival. Unfortunately I couldn’t get interested in who got the parts, as they all become meshed into a nondescript lump of struggling performers and the story just briskly moved along from one audition to the next with the self-important bosses sitting at a table and judging them (such as director Bob Avian, casting scout Jay Binder and choreographer (the original Connie) Baayork Lee).
I could never get excited about this cattle call but if you’re looking for a positive, this non-fiction film is more bearable than the 1985 fictionalized Hollywood film.
REVIEWED ON 8/12/2009 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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