Elevate Difference

Every Little Step

Despite the fact that I have lived in Manhattan for over six years, I have never once gone to a Broadway show. In fact, I make it a point to keep away from the theater district, period. I don’t much care for the stylized (read: exaggerated) performance style that theater actors have to adopt in order to make themselves seen and heard from the nosebleed seats. And I always thought that the way characters in musicals always burst into perfectly choreographed song-and-dance routines to advance their individual story lines was Velveeta-cheesy.

That said, I plan to go see A Chorus Line as soon as it comes back to New York City, exorbitant ticket prices be damned. Sitting through the oftentimes poignant documentary, Every Little Step, piqued my curiosity about the hugely successful Broadway show.

The plot of Every Little Step, which was the official selection of the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival, operates on parallel tracks. The first track details the nearly year long audition process behind the 2006 revival. The second track relates the process under which the original play was written; it features audio tape from the midnight talks that A Chorus Line creator Michael Bennett had with the “gypsies” of Broadway, performers who always got cast for the chorus lines without ever landing a star role in a production.

The filmmakers wisely avoid American Idol style antics, only depicting the very best of the auditions. Yuka Takara squirms while trying to convince a skeptical Baayork Lee, the original Connie, that she is the best person to reprise the role. Jason Tam’s subtly powerful interpretation of the cross-dressing Paul’s monologue reduces the casting directors to tears, which is amazing due to the fact that these people had heard those lines thousands, if not millions, of times before. We see an earnest Deidre struggle to hit the right notes as she tries for the part of Sheila while her main rival, Rachelle, unexpectedly crashes and burns. A preternaturally talented Jessica is the Cinderella of the piece, travelling from small-town New Jersey to nail “Dance: Ten; Looks: Three.”

I honestly can’t find fault with Every Little Step. The pacing is excellent. This movie, unlike a lot of recent movies, is actually shot on film, giving the images the requisite gritty feel. The talking-head interviews managed to be educational and entertaining at once. And it wasn’t filled with inaccessible theater in-jokes that would have made it difficult for a Broadway newbie like myself to follow along.

Every Little Step gives its viewers a taste of what it is like to literally sing—and dance—for one’s supper. This should be recommended viewing for any prospective Broadway actor who feels that they “can do that,” “hopes they get it,” or wants to see what other actors “did for love.”

Written by: Ebony Edwards-Ellis, March 10th 2009

Thanks for your review Ebony. I am interested in ELS: As a singer-songwriter, I have always felt this pressure to be more overt with my personality and message, although I don't put that hat on when I perform, the feeling that the audience demands / expects it, is there. Your first paragraph describes my feelings exactly about such things, and I want to copy it and read it over and over until I feel that I am allowed to express myself with my songs, my poetry and soft and gentle as I like, and still feel proud. The current trend in 'slam' poetry has me gone hiding in the closet again as a musician/poet, so this is quite an inspiration.The documentary should prove to be cathartic for me as well. My mother came from the era of show tunes etc and she always pushed me to be more aggressive with my communications, but it just isn't me. Best,Brielle