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One of the funniest musicals of all time comes to the Black Hills courtesy of the Black Hills Community Theatre.

The BHCT will close their 2015-2016 season from May 6 to May 15 at the Performing Arts Center of Rapid City with "The Producers," Mel Brooks' musical based on his film of the same name.

The show concerns the plan by Broadway producer Max Bialystock and accountant Leo Bloom to take the money and run after debuting a show that's a sure fire flop: "Springtime for Hitler." The film won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, while the musical won a record-breaking 12 Tony Awards. Director Kory Yamada was a fan of both versions, as well a Brooks' work in general.

"I think the first I ever saw was probably 'Spaceballs,'" Yamada said. "And It made me seek out all of his other films. They're still so funny."

Yamada, however, made certain to find a way to make the show her own rather than repeating what worked in the past.

"As soon as I committed to directing the show, I purposely avoided rewatching the movies or clips," Yamada. "I didn't want them so fresh in my mind that I was trying to recreate them."

That extended to casting Bialystock and Bloom, played in the show by Justin Speck and Scott Schipke. Yamada wanted actors who would embody the spirits of the characters rather than give performances similar to Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder, Nathan Lane or Matthew Broderick.

"This is Scott's first show with BHCT, and I keep telling people, Scott just is Leo," Yamada said. "As soon as he walked into callbacks with a buttoned-down shirt and dress pants and a bow-tie, I thought, 'Well, that's Leo." And Justin gets the character of Max, the motivations, Mel Brooks' sense of humor. You can't teach that."

Casting, Yamada said, was a large part of directing comedy, which is dependent on exact timing and tone. 

"The show is over the top and silly, but you have to have a strong line between what's funny and what's too much," Yamada said. "In a broad comedy, it's easy to kill jokes by trying too hard, so it's the director's job to make sure everybody goes to a line without going over it."

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That line goes pretty far: Yamada said that people unfamiliar with the show are often shocked when they hear a number is titled "Springtime for Hitler," but that the unexpected mix of mocking the Nazis and putting them in a big, over-the-top Broadway number with a full orchestra is what's funny.

"The song is so irreverent and clever and ridiculous," Yamada said. "I look forward to seeing it every night at rehearsal."

The show may purposely flirt with and lampoons tastelessness, but that's part of what has kept it funny for nearly 50 years.

"There's still a shock factor of, 'I can't believe they said that,'" Yamada said. "But the jokes are so smart, too. They speak to something that rings true, and that's what makes it funny."

To purchase tickets, call 394-1786.

Contact Max B. O'Connell at 394-8427 or max.oconnell@rapidcityjournal.com

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