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Every Little Step (10/10)

by Tony Medley

Run Time 96 minutes.

I like pretty much anything about Broadway musicals. I like the PBS shows of cast recordings. I like movies and shows about how plays are made. This is a movie about how a revival of “The Chorus Line” was cast. It is drop-dead fascinating, actually much more entertaining than the musical about which it is made.

It starts with a tape recording director Michael Bennett made on January 18, 1974 when he called 18 dancers together in an empty exercise center in Manhattan, and got them to tell their stories as the basis for what became “The Chorus Line.” These people are the “gypsies” who are the heart and sole of the Broadway musical. They travel from musical to musical to form the essential background behind the stars.

For the next 12 hours on that early winter morning in 1974, Bennett and his fellow dancers talked about their lives, revealing an incredible amount of information about their personal histories, their motivation to perform and their dreams. The process of discovery revealed that the faceless chorus was composed of individuals with wit and abundant humanity, each with a special story to tell.

Bennett taped these conversations and collaborated with Nicholas Dante to write A Chorus Line. His long time associate Bob Avian helped choreograph the show. Multiple Grammy and Oscar-winning composer Marvin Hamlisch was brought on to fashion the score, and Ed Kleban contributed the Lyrics. The team began intense workshops with the cast before the script and songs were even finished.

I have to say right here that “The Chorus Line” is not one of my favorites. I wouldn’t walk across the street to see the play or the movie (and I’ve seen both). But I would walk a lot further to see this movie.

We see auditions for each of the major roles, from the first cattle call, then to subsequent auditions as the applicants are narrowed down. Finally it comes down to the final two or three for each of the roles and by this time we’ve gotten to know each of the contestants through interviews which are frank, revealing, and often emotional.

What is remarkable and admirable is how these people put everything they have into every audition. Dustin Hoffman, for one, has called auditioning “the lowest depths of misery.” It’s awe-inspiring to see them throw caution to the wind and let it all hang out.

If you like Broadway, this is a movie you cannot miss.