As anyone with a passing familiarity with American musical theater can tell you, A Chorus Line is a story of the audition process—which means that Every Little Step, which documents the audition process for A Chorus Line's 2006 Broadway revival, is a retelling within a retelling. More compelling than that bit of meta-ness, though, is the documentary's account of how the original production was hatched, over jugs of cheap red wine in 1974, when director and choreographer Michael Bennett taped New York dancers telling stories of their struggles. The film gives us excerpts from these tapes, snatches of the confessions that were eventually translated into Broadway classics like "Dance: 10, Looks: 3" and "At the Ballet."
Directors Adam Del Deo and James D. Stern's real coup is the access they were given to the revival's casting process, giving the audience a bird's eye view of the months of debating and vetting involved in whittling down several thousand hopefuls to 30 hired performers. The editing is coy, never giving it away when one performer shines at a first call back, only to fall flat at the second. This noncommittal flitting from subject to subject, though, makes it difficult to become attached to anyone, and the film includes at least two or three blondes that are nearly impossible to differentiate.
Assuming the directors hoped to recreate the dramatic power A Chorus Line drew from its protagonists—all the strength of which derived from their vulnerable, deeply personal revelations—their fickle handling of Every Little Step's subjects backfires. The film never moves quite close enough into any of its subjects' lives to elicit anything more than general empathy, and rather than being engaging, the film is frustratingly content to work merely as an insider peek at the tearful, sweaty scenes behind Broadway's storied curtains.