Friday, April 24, 2009

Every Little Step (Movie)

Photo: Paul Kolnik

What a pleasure: a theatre documentary that is actually good! After a number of recent docs, I left the theatre thinking, wow, how could they take such great footage and make such a mediocre movie? After Every Little Step, I left the theatre thinking, wow, performing is a tough field, wow, Donna McKechnie was an even better dancer than I remembered, wow, A Chorus Line is an amazing creation, and, wow, this was a good movie!

To get my complaints out of the way: waaaaay too little attention is given to Edward Kliban (lyrics) and James Kirkwood and Nicolas Dante (book). I understand that film-makers Adam Del Deo and James D. Stern didn't have interview footage with them and that they are all long gone, but the film-makers could have asked Donna McKechnie, Marvin Hamlisch, and Baayork Lee about them. They could have spent a few minutes giving a little background. To barely mention the contribution of those three men is a real weakness of the movie and an insult to their memories.

Now, for the strengths: most importantly, the film-makers had amazing access to the auditions for the recent Broadway revival of A Chorus Line. It must have been strange for the actors to know that their auditions might end up being seen by thousands of people--but probably no stranger than auditioning in front of casting director Jay Binder, who scowls even when he's pleased. (As far as I noticed, only one person's face was masked electronically. I wonder why she objected to being in the film, and I wonder who she is!) The film-makers also managed to lay their hands on a wonderful array of historical items, including reel-to-reel tapes from the original workshop that grew into A Chorus Line (how wonderful and eerie to hear so many familiar lines said for the first time as one gypsy or another reminisced about life as a dancer) and grainy but magical footage of Donna McKechnie dancing to "The Music and the Mirror." Perhaps the ultimate success of the movie is this: even though I saw the revival of A Chorus Line and therefore knew which performers were eventually cast, I still found the movie almost excruciatingly suspenseful and very very moving.

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