Broadway Survival: Every Little Step is a poignant film about making the showbiz cut.

On a midnight in January 1974, choreographer Michael Bennett gathered 22 friends and “gypsies”—as those in the Broadway biz call chorus-line dancers—in a Manhattan dance studio. “I think we’re all pretty interesting,” Bennett said. “And I think that maybe there’s a show in that, somewhere.” Around a reel-to-reel recorder and a jug of red wine, they embarked on a 12-hour confession session that Bennett molded into the 1976 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama and Tony Award-winning homage to the gypsy, A Chorus Line. Now, Bennett’s documentary musical is a documentary film. Directed and produced by James D. Stern and Adam Del Deo, meta-homage Every Little Step follows a new crop of hopeful gypsies vying for the chance to perform in the 2006 Broadway revival of A Chorus Line. But you don’t have to be a musical theater buff to enjoy the film. Beginning with the original recorded “interview,” Stern and Del Deo weave old audio and footage of the original production into the auditions, evoking a sense of legacy and offering an idea of what revival director and original co-choreographer Bob Avian calls a “fresh” take on a character. As the eight-month audition goes on, you pick your favorite performers to root for, like watching a season of American Idol sharpened by American Ballet Academy training and cutthroat competition. Intermingling past and present, the film unpacks the abiding appeal of A Chorus Line. Is it that performers and artists are inherently more interesting than the rest of us? Not necessarily, this documentary seems to say. What enraptures is the chosen 17 performers’ love of dance—what they suffer and what they’re trying to find. The creative process yields as much pain as joy, and Bennett’s characters, who risk mental anguish in audition after audition, testify as much. To reduce the film to its tail-chasing, life-imitating-art-imitating-life premise would miss the film’s real thrust. Yes, Every Little Step is a film about dancers auditioning for a musical about dancers auditioning for a musical. But it is also about anyone whose livelihood depends on the creative process, or anyone who dreams and wishes it did.

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