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Heidi Kettenring, Marriott Theatre's Dolly Levi, says working on 'Hello, Dolly!' revival is 'nothing but fun'

If you asked Heidi Kettenring - star of Marriott Theatre's "Hello, Dolly!" revival - who showed her how a pro conducts herself in the rehearsal room, she would credit the late local theater legend Hollis Resnik.

Resnik, the 11-time Joseph Jefferson Award winner and Broadway tour veteran who died last April, was starring as Mame in one of Kettenring's first shows as a professional.

"I'll never forget it. On the first day of rehearsal she knew all her lines and knew everybody's name," Kettenring said.

In the 22 years since then, Kettenring has made a point of following Resnik's example.

For Kettenring, who has performed in 23 Marriott productions, to date, it's important her colleagues onstage and backstage know how important they are to the production.

We can't do the show without them, she said adding, "Each show I do, I'm learning from the people around me how I want to be in the (rehearsal) room and how I want to be perceived in the room."

Typically, Kettenring auditions for roles like every other actor. But Marriott offered her the role of the beloved matchmaker, one of the few times that happened over the course of her 25-year career.

"I don't anticipate it will happen again any time soon," she said with a laugh, "so I'm cherishing it for a million reasons."

One of those reasons is the revival affords her the opportunity to star opposite her husband, Chicago actor and Jeff Award winner David C. Girolmo, who plays matchmaker Dolly Levi's client - cantankerous, half-a-millionaire Horace Vandergelder. The couple have worked together before, but have not played opposite each other until now.

"It worked out in the most lovely way," said the Evanston resident. "He was the best actor for the job, and it just so happens he's my husband."

"To say (Girolmo's casting) was the cherry on top is an understatement," Kettenring said.

Married theater artists Heidi Kettenring and David C. Girolmo star as Dolly Levi and Horace Vandergelder in Marriott Theatre's "Hello, Dolly!" Courtesy of Joe Mazza Brave Lux

While the couple tries to keep separate their personal and professional lives, Kettenring says they sometimes rehearse at home. On a recent day off, they spent a couple of hours running lines.

"We actually really enjoy it," said Kettenring, who received a 2015 Jeff Award for her performance as Anna in Marriott's "The King and I."

Moreover, there's something to be said about having a married couple play these roles, especially since Michael Stewart's script has Dolly and Horace referring to each other by different names, suggesting they've known each other a while.

"That's a fun element," Kettenring said. "Who knows if anyone will notice, but we've had conversations with the amazing director Denis Jones. For us, it adds a lovely element."

Asked about what makes a "Hello, Dolly!" revival timely, Kettenring answers that the characters' eagerness to experience a new life.

The opening lyrics of "Put On Your Sunday Clothes" suggest as much. "There's a world outside of Yonkers," sings Cornelius, encouraging fellow clerk Barnaby to join him on a proposed New York City adventure.

"We have spent much of the last 2½ years locked away in our homes unable to gather, unable to be with other people," Kettenring said. "Twenty minutes into the show, all of these people (Cornelius, Barnaby, Irene, Dolly, Horace) are ready to move out of this sheltered moment in their lives."

A musical about hope, about moving forward with hope, is an ideal show for right now, she said.

"The entire world has felt that," she said, even with precautions, "it's time to live again."

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"Hello, Dolly!"

When: 1 and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday; 7:30 p.m. Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 4 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 1 and 5 p.m. Sunday (with select Thursday matinees) through Oct. 16

Where: Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, (847) 634-0200, marriotttheatre.com

Tickets: $59-$64

COVID-19 precautions: Masking encouraged