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Recent News


By: Esther Noe, Custer County Chronicle

Crowds of people flocked to the Black Hills Playhouse for the premiere performance of their third play of the summer, ‘Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella.’ This fairy tale family musical sweeps the audience to a realm where true love and a little magic can change everything. “A place where imagination takes flight, and the realm of possibilities are endless,” as director Justin Speck put it. 

‘Cinderella’ holds all the familiar sentiment of the original fairytale while simultaneously being enriched with fresh new twists. 

Ella, portrayed by Sanchi Pandey, is a beautiful young girl with a kind heart. Although overworked by her stepmother and ridiculed by her stepsisters, from her own little corner Ella can imagine that anything is possible. However, her corner of the world is about to expand in ways she never planned. 

Meanwhile, Prince Topher, portrayed by Payton M. Johnson, is your average giant hunting, dragon-fighting, handsome prince with a name so long that it is better to hear it in song. Underneath the guise though, Topher is struggling with his identity and purpose as the future king. He has taken the council of others for so long that he does not truly know who he can be.

Throughout the play, there are strong themes of the power of kindness, fighting for your dreams, taking control of your life, believing in yourself, and forgiving others. Running gags and one-liners made the adults roar with laughter and magical costume changes made little girls gasp in wonderment. For another added touch of class, the entire musical is performed to live music produced by Vonnie Houchin, Meredith Meersman, Lon Schnitgrund, and Alan Temple. 

The setting shifted seamlessly between the forest and castle as well as outside and inside Ella’s home. There were moving doors, “horse” drawn carriages, and hidden compartments for quick escapes. In addition, there were just enough props to complement each scene. 

Nevertheless, singing and dancing were the most notable features. Each cast member sang with a richness and depth that harmonized with their fellow thespians to create a masterful blend of sounds. The soloists managed to capture the audience’s attention within a few notes, and during many songs, a hush fell over the crowd so nothing would be missed. 

Somehow while singing with such power, this creative cast simultaneously danced intricate pieces that required switching partners multiple times, high kicks, tight spins and a few lifts and flips often in ball gowns and suits. A close look revealed many cast members were even wearing professional dancing shoes to expand their range of motion.

This musical was performed by a cast of 15 talented thespians, including Pandey, Johnson, Michael Reitano, Bart Williams, Kaitlin Gant, Alex Rudd, Andrea Moore, Emily Dean, Lydia Prior, Genevieve Cortez, Brandon Doan, Casey Fay, Alex Vito Fuegner, Abby Naden and Zay Williams. Each cast member transformed themselves into their character(s) so seamlessly with emotions and gestures that the audience was never drawn out of the story. As a result, they were met with a standing ovation and many cheers for their thrilling performance at the curtain call. 

‘Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella’ is approximately two hours long divided by a fifteen-minute intermission between acts. With a G rating, it is perfect for kids while including plenty of twists and quips to keep adults engaged. You will not want to miss it or the midpoint plot twist of the fairy tale that broke with all tradition. 


Why the Season Is Earlier This Year

Conversations are going on all over the country about work/life balance and what it means for creative professionals who often work long hours at times when others are relaxing (nights, weekends).  After discussing with artists and technicians last summer, we adjusted the production schedule to accommodate more days off (every Monday) and eliminate overnights as we prepare to open shows which means there are more dark days in the summer in the theatre.

We value all of the staff who work to bring the fine entertainment and theatre education opportunities to our communities.  Although this lengthens the season and requires an additional $10K investment for the summer, we believe it will strengthen our company and keep people safer.

On Our Side Siding & Insulation Project Finished

We can't wait to get back into our newly sided and insulated theater this summer! The siding and insulation project is complete and the facility looks stunning thanks to the work of All American Siding & Windows, BHP Campus Associate Director Randy Niles, and the Physical Plant Committee headed up by Rick Giesel. We are so grateful to all who donated to this important project.


Legislative News

In 2009, the SD Legislature passed a bill requiring the State to issue a lease to the Black Hills Playhouse and required the Black Hills Playhouse to annually invest 5% of its operating budget into repair and maintenance of the campus. The legislation was well-intended, but by 2022 many parts of it were obsolete.


The Legislative Task Force of the BHP (Corey Brown, Tom Geu, David Barrari, Todd Brink, Shawn Lyons, Jim Hood, Rick Giesel, Ron Jeffries, and Linda Anderson) worked in tandem with the SD Department of Game, Fish & Parks on a bill to repeal the legislation. SD G, F & P recognizes all of the hard work and dollars that have gone into making significant improvements on the campus over the past decade, as well as the essential changes in management of the physical plant that have resulted in continuous improvements, well above the 5% mandate.  Repeal of the legislation allows for more flexibility between SD G, F & P, and the Playhouse as we continue to work together to improve the site in Custer State Park.

Thanks to the BHP Alumni Association, SD Department of G, F, & P, Custer State Park, SD National Guard, SD Job Corp, Central States Fair, Black Hills Energy, All American Siding & Windows, USA Roofing, Gene Fennell, the Physical Plant Committee of the BHP, and many other donors and funders, we have been able to accomplish so much together.


Here are some of the projects that have been completed over the past decade thanks to our donors and partners!

Removal of unsafe buildings

Clean up to remove old equipment and appliances on campus

ADA accessibility upgrades to theater

Code upgrades to theater

New stage curtains

Water efficiency upgrades

Dorm improvements including new flooring

New fly system and rigging

New dining hall

Installation of exhaust fans

Plumbing improvements and water efficient appliances

Purchase and installation of walk-in coolers

Rebuild of walkway between upper & lower camp

New costume shop

Siding on scene shop

Construction of office in snack bar

New sound system

Dining hall porch construction

Flower gardens and landscaping

Total upgrade of electrical system in theater

Outdoor performing space for season 2021

New siding, windows, insulation, and new roof of theater

Re-roofing of every structure on campus in 2021

Costume shop floor rebuild

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