For Naples Players, getting into 'Hello, Dolly' character is a cinch — literally

"Hello, Dolly!" cast members rehearse a dance number in the show. The women wear long skirts to get used to moving and dancing in the long-skirted costumes.

Photo by Naples Players

"Hello, Dolly!" cast members rehearse a dance number in the show. The women wear long skirts to get used to moving and dancing in the long-skirted costumes.

James Little, Jane Armstrong, Debi Guthery, Laura Needle and Jake Hanson rehearse for the upcoming Naples Players production of "Hello, Dolly!."

Photo by Naples Players

James Little, Jane Armstrong, Debi Guthery, Laura Needle and Jake Hanson rehearse for the upcoming Naples Players production of "Hello, Dolly!."

If you go

"Hello, Dolly!"

What:Musical about the New York City adventures of Dolly Levi

When:8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sundays through March 31

Where:701 Fifth Ave. S., Naples

Cost:$35

Information:(239) 263-7990, naplesplayers.com

The story takes audiences on a journey following matchmaker Dolly Levi around the turn of the 20th century. The tale takes a turn when, in trying to make a match for Horance Vandergelder, Dolly selects herself.

The lyrics and music for "Hello, Dolly!" are by Jerry Herman and the book is by Michael Stewart. And while the actors are busy dancing, singing and cavorting around, another character of sorts will take center stage: the oft-loathed but oh-so-flattering, corset.

In fact, the corset is so important to the female characters' roles, director Dallas Dunnagan has had the actors wearing them from day one.

"The show is a very specific period piece and all the female actors have been in corsets throughout rehearsal so they could get used to them, because it is a whole different way of moving and breathing," said Dunnagan. "Guys are also wearing hard-sole shoes, not tennis shoes, so they have to deal with it from a physical point of view."

One of the challenges to producing 'Hello Dolly!' is the restricting clothing to which the actors must become accustomed, said Dunnagan: "'Hello, Dolly!' has a very specific style to it."

Debi Guthery, Jane Armstrong and James Little rehearse as the women in the Naples Players' production of 'Helly, Dolly!' become accustomed to the tight corsets which are part of their costumes.

Photo by Naples Players

Debi Guthery, Jane Armstrong and James Little rehearse as the women in the Naples Players' production of "Helly, Dolly!" become accustomed to the tight corsets which are part of their costumes.

"The girls are wearing long skirts and both the guys and girls are wearing hats, because the modern person isn't aware of what it takes to do this," said Dunnagan. "We have a great costume department and Dot Auchmoody is doing a terrific job, because the actors have had to deal with these costumes from the first day of rehearsing."

Dunnagan also says that every actor brings his or her own experiences into a role and those experiences go into the character.

"We didn't set out but to do any production but our own," she says. "For the person who plays the role, it's their character to develop and that's the direction I gave them."

Playing a character like Dolly requires a special actor who can become accustomed to wearing the challenging costumes that the character requires. It's something Debi Guthery is looking forward to incorporating into her character.

"'Hello Dolly!' is written so well and it's a great musical," said Guthery, who has starred in numerous Players' production, including "Annie" as Miss Hannigan, and more recently with lead roles in last season's performances of "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" and "42nd Street."

She says she is excited to be playing a character everyone actually likes.

"I usually play evil characters so it will be really fun to play this positive character," said Guthery. "This is a very uplifting show that makes you do what you want to do with your life if you listen to the underlying message — which is to live life to the fullest and be happy."

As for those corsets, despite having acted professionally before, Guthery had to get used to them just like her fellow actors.

Debi Guthery and Carmine Paccino, as Dolly Levi and Horace Vandergelder, in rehearsal. Naples Players will present 'Hello, Dolly!' Feb. 29-March 4

Photo by Naples Players

Debi Guthery and Carmine Paccino, as Dolly Levi and Horace Vandergelder, in rehearsal. Naples Players will present "Hello, Dolly!" Feb. 29-March 4

"It has been a great challenge rehearsing in the corsets," she says. "It was very hard to learn to breathe when I sing wearing a corset. But on the upside, it holds you up and gives you better posture. We had to learn to act and sing wearing them, so from the get-go we've been practicing."

Not all of the costuming is a chore.

"The big 'Hello, Dolly!' number is sophisticated and I'm really looking forward to wearing the hats," said Guthery. "We never get to wear those big gorgeous hats in real life, so the audience will enjoy the huge hats with all the feathers."

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