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The Cast and Creative Team of Every Little Step
The 2006 Chorus Line Documentary:
Producers/Directors
Adam Del Deo and James D.
Stern; Choreographer Baayork Lee; and Chorus Line Cast Member Yuka Takara
April 13, 2009




Photo Credits:
Sony Pictures Classics

The world is filled with Chorus Line groupies, including this writer. When the show first opened on Broadway, it was totally new - an art form that had never before played The Great White Way. And there has never been a successful imitator. When the creators (minus the late great Michael Bennett) decided to stage a revival in 2006, filmmakers Adam Del Deo and James D. Stern had the incredible opportunity to film the casting. Their new documentary, Every Little Step, is Chorus Line from the other end of the telescope. Here is my review; be sure to scroll down for the interviews.

Adam Del Deo and James D. Stern's
Every Little Step
Opens Friday, April 17, 2009

Starring: Bob Avian; Baayork Lee; Michael Bennett (archive footage); Charlotte d'Amboise; Jacques d'Amboise; Natascia Diaz; Ramon Flowers; Jessica Lee Goldyn; Yuka Takara; Marvin Hamlisch; Megan Larche; J. Elaine Marcos; Donna McKechnie; Meredith Patterson; Yuka Takara; Jason Tam; and Chryssie Whitehead.

What they did for love.

Michael Bennett's A Chorus Line opened at Broadway's Shubert Theatre in 1975 and ran continuously for fifteen years. The show received twelve Tony Awards and still lives today through its road company and multiple community theater and college productions. (See the show's official website.) Bennett had created the original show from a series of recorded interviews that he made in the summer of 1974 with the support of Joseph Papp of the Public Theater. When Bennett first recorded these interviews he did not have a specific goal in mind. He simply recorded multiple stories from Broadway dancers (known as gypsies) about why they had started to dance and what dance meant to them.

It was only later with the collaboration of the dancers and composer Marvin Hamlisch that he decided on the new musical's form, three distinct periods in the life of a dancer as told through the life story of multiple dancers.

The original show opens to great acclaim and became an institution. And knowing what we know now, it is easy to say that this result was inevitable, but no one knew what would happen while the show was being workshopped. Bennett had had as many failures as he had success. But with Chorus Line, the theater gods lined up in the ultimate harmonic convergence. The show was simply magic. Tragically, Michael Bennett died of Aids in 1987 while Chorus Line was still performing on Broadway.

In 2006, the remaining collaborators launched a revival. And this time in the spirit of life imitating art, the entire casting process was filmed by director/producers James D. Stern (Hairspray and Stomp) and Adam Del Deo (The Blair Witch Project). The documentary follows the casting process which began with thousands of dancers lined up around the block and ended with a cast of seventeen. Casting the new productions are Michael Bennett's co-choreographer Bob Lee and Baayork Lee, a choreographer and friend of Michael Bennett's who originated the role of Connie (the dancer who never grew tall) in 1975.


Charlotte d'Amboise

We follow dancers as they leave their homes to travel to the auditions. We see the life of a young New Jersey dancer as she leaves her mother's home to travel by bus into Manhattan to audition. We also follow the audition process of from the viewpoint of Charlotte d'Amboise, the daughter of famed danced Jacque D'Amboise, who beautifully auditions for the part of the older dancer Cassie, only to not be cast in the end.

One of the funnier parts of the casting process is when the original Connie, Baayork Lee, has so much trouble finding the perfect person to play her part. No one is quite right. But in the end Lee totally falls for her replacement, the plucky young Taiwan-born Yuka Takara

The 2006 Chorus Line opened on October 5, 2006 to wildly appreciative audiences. Watching the documentary is bitter sweet because the 1996 show was forced to close on Aug. 17, 2008 after only 18 previews and 759 regular performances. The cause was undoubtedly the loss of momentum and income from the Broadway stage hands strike of 2007. But according to Playbill.com, the show recouped its investment after only nineteen performance, something that is nothing short of phenomenal.

If you love dance or have every loved a dancer, Every Little Step is must seeing. It is a microscopic look at the heart of dance and dancers, a chance to see just why Broadways' gypsies will give up anything to have the opportunity to just dance.


 


Baayork Lee

Interview with Original Cast Member and 2006 Choreographer
Baayork Lee and Yuka Takara (the 2006 show’s Connie)

Question to Baayork Lee about show she felt about having Yuka Takara play her part (Baayork was the original Connie and the part was based on her life story):

Baayork Lee: Hey she’s cute – come on!


Yuka Takara

Question to Yuka Takara about whether she thought she would have such a long relationship with Baayork Lee:

Yuka Takara: We have a lot of fun.

Question to Yuka Takara about how she felt when she was cast:

Yuka Takara: It was like you saw in the documentary. I was on unemployment and then I was cast. My best friend and I were up for the role and Connie and in the end I thought; it will be either me or my best friend and whatever happens I will go on.

Question about the original show:

Baayork Lee: I did several flops with Michael Bennett (Seesaw). Then he asked me to be party of this 24 hour tape session about why dancers came to New York and why they want to dance. He let Joseph Papp listen to the tapes and Papp told him to go ahead and do a work in process; they did not even call it workshop back then. It was an entirely new idea.

I started out as Michael’s assistant as he first developed the show. My part was not even created until the second workshop. I could not believe that anyone would be interested in a short Asian who wanted to be a ballet dancer. He named my character after Connie Chung.

Yuka Takara: I (had the same story as Baayork). I started dancing at five until someone told me that my butt was too big – it was coming out of my tutu. I stopped growing in the sixth grade. I love Baayork’s line: “Whatever I am, I am.” Baayork and I were both fighters inside.

Question about the popularity of the new dance shows:

Baayork Lee: Dance has come full circle. In the 70’s we had Dance Fever and disco. Now we have Dancing With the Stars. Chorus Line was the mother of all these show.

Yuka Takara: It’s been done already.

Baayork Lee: These TV shows are Johnny Come Latelys. We are never as cruel as Simon when we are casting. The dancers have their agents and their teachers to give them feed back. Dancers can audition four or five times a day. They would leave our audition and go across the street to Shrek or Mary Poppins (Baayork was referring to casting for the current road show)

I really wanted the 2006 Broadway show to go on forever, but then there was the stage hands strike.

Chorus Line has a touring company and there is a show performing right now in Milan in Italian. .

Question about whether you think Michael Bennett was a giant:

Baayork Lee: When you grow up with someone you don’t think he is a giant. When we started to develop Chorus Line, we started with an empty sheet. We were just dancers who were unemployed. We did not even know what the structure would be. We could have been dancers in a therapy session in an asylum.

I always loved dancing the chorus; I never wanted to go in front of the line.

Most of us had never taken an acting class. Chorus Line was the first reality show. People are interested in people.

We did not realize that we had a hit; the realization came slowly when we saw Jackie Onassis and her children in the audience. We saw the limousine out in front of the Public Theater and thought – what is this?

Question about what they are doing now:

Yuka Takara: I am presently touring with Rent. I will be in LA for the pilot season but right now I will complete this interview and fly back to join the road company of Rent.

Yuka Takara: I hope that some day I can do what Baayork did for the newer kids.

Baayork Lee: I have been doing the same thing for 35 years; screaming “Eat Nails” at the dancers (meaning that the dancers should up the energy). They just put it on the screen.

As a dancer you don’t have a voice. Michael Bennett gave me my voice. This show is about love – it you love it, you just keep on going.



Adam Del Deo
James D. Stern

The Interview with Directors/Producers Adam Del Deo and James D. Stern

Question about how the two directors divided their responsibilities:

Adam Del Deo: We did not really divide the responsibilities.

James D. Stern: Adam has a strong background in shooting Dance and I have a strong attachment to the theater – Broadway theater. I grew up with Broadway musicals; my parents played the sound tracks on the stereo every Sunday. (Stern produced Legally Blonde, Hairspray, The Producers etc. )

Question about what was the impetus for making the documentary:

Adam Del Deo: We knew the history of Chorus Line. And when the show was revived, we saw chance to follow thousand of dancer trying to get a job on Broadway. Making this documentary would be an organic mirror of the beginnings of the Bennett show.

Question about the documentary and the tie in to the popularity of the TV dance shows:

James D. Stern: I don’t get too tied up in that subject. I produced Stomp and when I was putting the show together everyone in New York passed on it and I did it anyway.

Chorus Line is the antithesis of So You Think You can Dance. Chorus Line is about kids who will give up lunch to pay for a dance class.

Question to Adam Del Deo about whether he can dance:

Adam Del Deo: I do the white man’s overbite at weddings.

Question about whether they agreed with the director’s casting choices:

James D. Stern: At the end of the day, yes.

Question about whether they had anyone they were rooting for:

Adam Del Deo: I have great respect for the dancers who love Broadway so much that they would make shelter and food secondary in their lives.

James D. Stern: Two thousand nine hundred and eight dancers did not get cast. And all were skipping lunch the next day to pay for a dance class.

Question about whether there are any Michael Bennett’s working on Broadway right now:

James D. Stern: Bennett and Fosse were great innovators. But I don’t think there is a great auteur on Broadway right now. I don’t know of a dominant person.

Question about whether it was difficult to gain access to the archives:

James D. Stern: No. The most important part of the archives was the actual audio tapes which were actually in a safety deposit box and not in a museum.

How difficult was it to put together the documentary:

Adam Del Deo: We spent a year in the editing room looking at a lot of footage.

Question about why the 2006 show closed in 2007:

James D. Stern: The stage hands strike certainly did not help.

Question about the alchemy of the 2006 show without Bennett:

James D. Stern: I will answer that question with a story. I saw the Jerome Robbin’s version of West Side Story - it was spectacular. And then I have seen other version of West Side Story.

Question about how you choose your projects:

James D. Stern: I have two small children and I want to do things they will be proud of. My next project will be a TV show about entrepreneurs – about the Steves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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