The audience at Dublin Coffman High School's production of "Kiss Me Kate" won't see a radically different show.

What they will see, however, will be efforts director Dan Stowell and the rest of the theater department made to make the musical's female lead a bit more in line with contemporary ideas about gender.

The musical -- to be presented at 7 p.m. April 12 through 15 at the high school -- features gorgeous songs that support plot and character development, Stowell said.

"It's a classic Broadway musical in all the good ways," he said.

Still, Stowell said, he worked with his department to find ways to put a more modern spin on the story's antiquated gender dynamics between male and female leads Fred and Lilli.

That effort took the shape of small modifications in scenes, such as altering an actor's tone and facial expression while keeping lines unchanged.

"We didn't want to rewrite the show," he said.

His goal, Stowell said, was to use the production to show that relationships are complicated. He also wanted his students to be able to aspire to relationships that celebrate gender equity.

When Lilli portrays Kate in Fred's musical take on "Taming of the Shrew," she at one point has to perform what Stowell described as a considerably sexist speech: She's ashamed, she says, women are so simple.

While Lilli is performing on stage, she's also communicating to Fred in the context of their relationship, Stowell said. And the way she sings her lines, he said, is completely tongue in cheek.

At the musical's end, when Lilli returns to theater and Fred, Stowell said he wanted that scene to communicate her decision as coming from a place of power rather than weakness.

"I didn't want it to feel like she was just sulking back because she didn't have options," he said.

Seventeen-year-old junior Elliot Marrocco plays Lilli, along with 16-year-old sophomore Sophia Longo. Marrocco -- who uses male gender pronouns -- said he enjoys working opposite senior Luke Phelps, who plays Fred.

Marrocco said he especially enjoys acting with Phelps in one of the scenes in which they fight as a couple.

"I like the stage combat that we have to do," Marrocco said.

A soprano, Marrocco said he also enjoys the songs because they give him the chance to show his range.

Similarly, senior Jasmyn Jewell said her role in the production -- first gangster -- gives her the opportunity to act intimidating, something she doesn't do in her normal life.

"It kind of challenges me as a person," she said.

Tickets for "Kiss Me Kate" are available at the door or via