Movie looks at 'A Chorus Line' then and nowby Euan Kerr, Minnesota Public Radio
One of Broadway's biggest hits "A Chorus Line" has entertained, and touched the hearts of millions of people around the world. It's about dancers trying out for a new show, hoping they'll get their big break.
Now a new documentary called "Every Little Step" examines both the roots of the show, and the realities of the thousands of dancers who tried out for the recent Broadway revival.
St. Paul, Minn. — When Adam Del Deo heard his company had been offered access to the casting process for "A Chorus Line," he saw it was a unique opportunity.
"We had a chance to reflect exactly what the original "A Chorus Line" was about," Del Deo said.
But then it got better.
The story goes that "A Chorus Line" was born on a snowy night in 1974. Choreographer Michael Bennett gathered a group of dancer friends in a New York studio. He poured them some wine, turned on a tape recorder and asked them to tell him their stories. They taped for 16 hours.
"It was really a confessional therapy session in a way," Del Deo said. "And those tapes, no one ever heard them, and Michael used them verbatim in many spots in the original "A Chorus Line" to create the show."
Adam Del Deo said the tapes were locked in a safety deposit box for years, but Bennett's estate released them for the film. Adam Del Deo said he knew they had struck gold.
"To hear Bennett's voice, at that moment what became 'A Chorus Line'" he said. "I mean you think about all the Tony Awards, the 18 million people that have seen the play on Broadway, the play being performed in approximately 25 different languages. I mean it's such an iconic play that all kind of came from these tape sessions and to hear the origins of it, it was numbing."
Eight of the dancers who were there that night ended up in the original production of "A Chorus Line."
Meanwhile the casting call for the Broadway revival of A Chorus Line had gone out. Adam Del Deo said, while they had permission from the producers to film, they also needed an agreement with the actors unions Equity. After prolonged negotiation they got it.
"It's the first time in the history of Broadway that cameras were allowed to go into the audition room to shoot an audition process," Del Deo said.
The next challenge was the call attracted 3,000 dancers. Somehow Del Deo and his team had to identify the people most likely to succeed. He said it was very labor intensive.
"Eight crews on any given day, seven, eight crews on any given day, it just depended on the day," Del Deo said.
The audition process went for eight months and they ended up following more than 75 people.
"We had more than 400 hours of footage," he said. As well as the auditions they had interviews with composer Marvin Hamlish and original cast members, such as Donna Mackechnie and Baayork Lee. Lee was at that original taping session and she was working as a choreographer for the revival.
They edited it all down to a compelling 90-minute film which examines the essence of what it is to be the kind of dancer who aspires to appear on Broadway.
There are the moments of jubilation at getting parts, and the devastation of being cut. Adam Del Deo admits it can be heartbreaking.
"It is hard to watch, because you start rooting for them all because you see how hard they are working," he said.
Del Dao said it's Darwinian, and a very American story which resonates with people far beyond the dance world.
"There is a moment in life when you are, as our play would say when you are going to "Step onto the line" or you are not going to make it onto the line, or achieve exactly what that goal is," he said. "But even if you don't, if you love what you are doing, the next day you can get up, roll up your sleeves and get back to work. That's life, it really is.
"so I think a lot of people who are not die-hard Chorus Line fans, or die-hard Broadway fans, they are going to be able to relate to that message in our movie."
At the center of it all is the joy of being on stage, even if you are on the chorus line and not the star.
- All Things Considered, 05/22/2009, 5:23 p.m.