Starring: Tanner Cohen (Timothy), Wendy Robie (Ms. Tebbitt), Judy McLane (Donna), Jill Larson (Nora Fay), Zelda Williams (Frankie), Ricky Goldman (Max), Nathaniel David Becker (Jonathan), Christian Stolte (Coach Driskill), David Darlow (Dr. Bellinger), Parker Croft (Cooper), and Brad Bukauskas (Cole).
There are also several reasons why a review of this film qualifies for inclusion on a theatre website: it is about a high school drama club production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, and features large chunks of the Bard's work, both in progress and in performance. It is also a musical, though a somewhat unconventional one, with many Roxie/Chicago-fantasy-style numbers that easily move us in and out of "reality." Finally, it also includes several very fine actors, many of whom are no stranger to the stage, be it in New York, Chicago or L.A., though the most recognizable face to Broadway lovers might be that of Judy McLane, who has been starring in Mamma Mia! on Broadway as Tanya for the long haul. You might also recognize Wendy Robie and Jill Larson from both stage and TV screen.
In the course of rehearsing the play, Timothy discovers a magic potion recipe that delivers the fanciful spell in Shakespeare's play: drops of the elixir in the eyes of all makes each fall in love with whomever he sees first. Hoping to woo Jonathan, Timothy makes the potion, but things get out of control when first he mistakenly sprinkles some on his straight best friend Max(a funny Ricky Goldman), and get even worse, when out of spite, he gives the potion to many of the people in the uptight small town he so desperately wants out of. The result? Most of the town begins to see the world from a gay perspective, as couple after couple (same-sex, of course) pursue each other and fall desperately in love. As one might expect, the homophobic coach (Christian Stolte) and the most offensive of his rugby players (Parker Croft and Brad Bukauskas) are the hardest hit by the gay love bug. But what makes this plot have its real bite, though, is in who DOESN'T get the potion: Timothy's mother (Judy McLane), who is struggling to understand her son's sexuality, the principal (David Darrow), who is struggling to keep his school together as the star members of the rugby team pair up and are found dancing and singing on the field, and canoodling in each others' beds, and Frankie (Zelda Williams) a unique girl and best friend of Timothy, and would-be girlfriend of Max. Ultimately, the whole experience opens the eyes of all concerned, realistically, not everyone ends up on Timothy's side, but all have a new perspective. When the very production that started all of this comes under fire and might not open, the drama teacher (the ethereal, wicked and very cool Wendy Robie) convinces Timothy that he must get everyone back to the way they were and hope that maybe they will learn to be more tolerant. The ending, which has both crowd-pleasing elements and healthy doses of a reality check, I won't give away, but you'd have to be a very hard case not to be moved by it.
One can only guess that writer/director Tom Gustafson and his design team have practical stage experience, as this low-budget film relies on stage effects over computer and film effects. One of the most effective sequences, the title number "Were the World Mine," where Timothy realizes that the play and his potion are the key to getting the world to be the way he likes it, starts in Timothy's bedroom, and moves into the gym/auditorium of the school and on the stage set. Rather than morphing the scenes, using green screens or even fancy film cuts, Gustafson reveals the sequence as he would were he confined to the Broadway stage. The reality of Timothy's bedroom literally breaks as the wall opens, revealing, in successive pools of light, the gym floor, Jonathan in a midsummer slumber, the rugby team as the fairies, and finally the stage where Timothy, as Puck, can weave his magic. Production designer Cory James Kruekeberg and costume designer Elizabeth Powell Wislar have created a big budget feel with limited funds: it is a gay fantasia filtered through the eyes of a small town gay teen. The emphasis is on glamming up the dreamers, and sexing up the hot jock boys, who as the fairies are topless (but evenly sweaty - think brushed on Vaseline) and in sparkly short hot pants. The choreography by Todd Underwood clearly takes a teen's fantasy world and MTV style dancing into mind. The rugby players/dancers are sexy in a teen lust kind of way, but all manage to maintain some semblance of innocence and sweet awkwardness. In fact, the same could be said of the whole film.
It manages to be the gay film gay audiences want. Lots of teasing with cute boys, who look just enough like high school age to be naughty, but are clearly old enough not to be jail bait. There is the requisite locker room scene, complete with just showered guys dressing, touching each other in a teasing way, with anti-gay banter to fill the void. The star of Timothy's love life manages to be shirtless and/or sweaty in a rugby uniform for most of the picture, and the rest of the boys saunter around in school boy uniforms, untucked, unbuttoned or slightly askew, or they are in a shirts (dripping with sweat) vs skins (sweaty, bare chested) gym game. And when they are effected by the potion, they all kiss like porn stars. Yes, Gustafson makes sure all the "gay" buttons are pushed. But he also balances things with subtle bouts of innocence and behavior that shows how similar gays and straights really are: sweet hand holding, falling asleep cuddling, moonlit professions of love, and heartfelt angst when the pursued aren't interested in the pursuers, all of which are the same no matter your orientation. By playing both sides of this complicated coin, the film manages to please the gay film crowd, the struggling with sexuality crowd, and shows the uninitiated that all of us are pretty much the same in matters of the heart. The difference is merely plumbing.