Published: Jun 15, 2009
Category: Documentary 
The original production of “A Chorus Line” ran for 6,137 performances. It won the Pulitzer Prize and 9 Tony awards. It lives on — the enduring appeal of talented performers looking for a chance to shine is so great it has spawned three “High School Musical” films and the “American Idol” franchise.
So it was inevitable that “A Chorus Line” would be revived on Broadway.
In 1974-5, when Michael Bennett and his team were developing “A Chorus Line”, putting auditions on video was unthinkable. Now, it’s commonplace — when I visited a publisher last fall, an editor whipped out her Flip video camera  and, almost before I left the building, had slapped up a blog. Documenting the tryouts for the Broadway revival of “A Chorus Line” was thus a no-brainer.
In 2005, 3,000 performers competed — over eight months — for eight roles in the show. That audition process is the story of Every Little Step , the documentary about those tryouts. It’s an astonishing film, far more dramatic than the summer blockbusters and comedies now in theaters, and if it’s anywhere near you — you’ll find a list of cities where it’s playing here  — please consider rearranging your entertainment calendar to see it.
“It takes your guts, it takes your soul — but you learn to give it,” a dancer says of the endless auditions, and she’s not kidding. Everything is on the line here. Not just childhood fantasies and adolescent dreams, but a needed job, a last chance, basic survival. Metaphors? If you don’t connect to this movie, you must be rich and beautiful and set for life.
There are many eye-popping moments. And one scene you’ll never forget.
It’s Jason Tam’s audition for the part of Paul. When the director asks Paul to tell his why-I’m-in-show-biz story, he starts talking about growing up Puerto Rican and gay in New York. Knowing he’s different. Not understanding why he feels ashamed of that difference. And explaining how he leaves school early and scuffles for work, finally getting a job in a gritty revue — in drag. Of course he hasn’t come out to his family. Of course they suspect nothing.
And then he says this:
We were working the Apollo Theatre on a Hundred and Twenty-Fifth Street. Doing four shows a day with a movie. It was really tacky. The show was going to go to Chicago. My parents wanted to say goodbye and they were going to bring my luggage to the theatre after the show. Well, we were doing this oriental number and I looked like Anna May Wong. I had these two great big chrysanthemums on either side my head and a huge headdress with gold balls hanging all over it. I was going on for the finale and going down the stairs and who should I see standing by the stage door ... my parents. They got there too early.
I freaked. I didn't know what to do. I thought to myself : "I know, I'll just walk quickly past them like all the others and they'll never recognize me." So I took a deep breath and started down the stairs and just as I passed my mother I heard her say: "Oh, my God." Well... I died. But what could I do? I had to go on for the finale so I just kept going.
After the show I went back to my dressing room and after I'd finished dressing and taking my makeup off, I went back down stairs. And there they were standing in the middle of all these ... And all they said to me was please write, make sure you eat and take care of yourself. And just before my parents left, my father turned to the producer and said: "Take care of my son..." That was the first time he ever called me that... I... ah... I... ah....
Stage Direction: He breaks down.
Reaction from the casting director, the director, and others behind that table, most of them veterans of the original production: They break down.
Audience reaction: Sniffles and sobs.
Me, I was a mess. This moment — based on Michael Bennett’s interview tapes from 1974 — was beyond drama for me. Because beyond the heartbreak of Paul and his parents, I saw the Apocalypse of AIDS coming for Paul, who’s not just gay, but feminine gay, and thus perhaps the most likely candidate for the gay plague. To see him use this most precious, intimate memory to get the part and grab a piece of glory and for me to know that his story would probably end, ever so badly, no more than a decade latter &mdash hey, that’s a bit more emotion than today’s focus-grouped movies deliver, isn’t it?
“Every Little Step” may take you back to the original cast CD and the script and some books about the production. (Don’t let it take you back to the movie, which was a total dud.) More to the point, it may return you to your own struggle with a slightly more acute notion of how difficult it is to get where you want to go in life, and how you have to risk everything to get it, and how, in the end, if you’re going to pray for anything, pray for luck.
To see the preview of “Every Little Step”, click here. 
To visit the web site of “Every Little Step”, click here. 
To buy the original cast recording as a CD from Amazon.com, click here. 
To buy the MP3 download of the original cast recording from Amazon.com, click here. 
To buy “On the Line: The Creation of ‘A Chorus Line’” from Amazon.com, click here. 
To buy “A Chorus Line: The Complete Book of the Musical” from Amazon.com, click here.