‘Every Little Step’ focuses on tough life of dancers | AspenTimes.com

‘Every Little Step’ focuses on tough life of dancers

Stewart OksenhornThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

(L-R) Robert Lupone and Donna McKechnie in a scene from the Broadway musical "A Chorus Line".

ASPEN – With the 1975 musical “A Chorus Line,” director-choreographer Michael Bennett was instantly raised to hero status in musical theater. “He became the crown prince of Broadway,” said Bob Klineman, Aspen’s resident musical maven, who saw the original production of the show four times. “Directors and choreographers loved him.”As much as his contemporaries might have admired his talents and the crowning achievement of his career, the feelings directors and choreographers held for Bennett likely paled in comparison to what the dancers thought of him. Before “A Chorus Line” and its numerous Tonys, a Pulitzer and iconic place in theater history, dancers were far down the Broadway totem pole.”The dancers” – or “the gypsies,” as Klineman calls them – “were considered after-thoughts, second-rate people behind the actors,” said Klineman. “And they may not have even been members of Actor’s Equity.””A Chorus Line” changed that virtually overnight. The show, with music by Marvin Hamlisch, focused tightly on dancers, their dreams and their psyches. And though it has since been surpassed as the longest-running show in Broadway history, its effect on how dancers are perceived has endured.Helping to assure that respect is “Every Little Step.” The recent documentary – which shows Monday and Wednesday at the Wheeler Opera House, with an introduction and Q&A each night by Klineman – looks at the 2006 revival of “A Chorus Line.” The film, by James D. Stern and Adam Del Deo, focuses again on the dancers auditioning, against staggering odds, for a part in the show. The film features extensive footage from the original production, as well as insight into how Bennett got the inspiration for the story.”A Chorus Line,” according to Klineman, began with kvetching dancers. “They vented their anger to Michael Bennett, and he recorded their woes and their lives, how their careers were going,” he said. Klineman says that Bennett wasn’t sure exactly what to do with the source material – whether to turn it into a book, or a musical. He opted for the latter, and the choice made history. “There’s no American musical that’s more prominent than ‘A Chorus Line,'” said Klineman.Bennett’s subsequent efforts did not fare nearly as well. Apart from his 1981 show “Dreamgirls,” nothing matched the significance of “A Chorus Line.” Even the 1985 film version of the musical fared poorly.When Bennett died, in 1987, he left a legacy of more than just one mega-hit show. He also changed the perception of Broadway dancers.”It elevated the position of dancers in the Broadway firmament and not just on Broadway, but all over the country,” said Klineman.stewart@aspentimes.com