Iron Springs Chateau
Employees: Up to 18
Location: 444 Ruxton Ave.,
Contact: ironspringschateau.com; 719-685-5104
By Kristian DePue
Located in Manitou Springs, near the base of The Incline, the Iron Springs Chateau sits over both Ruxton Creek and the Ute Iron Spring. Ruxton Creek flows underneath, while the Ute Iron Spring is capped below what was the open-air pavilion, originally built in 1890 (which is now an enclosed dining room).
The spring’s water was considered a medicinal tonic, attracting many visitors to the chateau.
The current operators are approaching their five-year anniversary of ownership. In that short period, they have put a lot of work into the business, and have big dreams ahead.
Dolores and Lori Adams-Miller purchased the Iron Springs Chateau with Brian and Rebekah Ratterree in January 2013. Since then, while operating the dinner theater, they have repaired the sidewalk, renovated the kitchen, installed new plumbing and replaced the roof. Within the last two months, they have acquired new stage lights, a sound system and piano for musical numbers.
“One of the first things we did when we took over was change and improve the menu,” said Dolores. “We are now offering salmon, and we can accommodate vegan and gluten-free requests.”
Rebekah said in the next five to 10 years, the owners would like to complete a major renovation that would include a second-level deck with a view of the mountains and The Incline.
“We’d also like to have a restaurant that’s open daily, independent of our theater shows,” she said.
Each of the owners have myriad responsibilities, but Rebekah and Lori are more involved with the direction of the theatrical productions, while Brian and Dolores are focused on management and business operations. Rebekah and Lori met while acting together at the Chateau in 1998, with Brian and Dolores in the audience.
“Melodrama is cartoonesque — think live-action Looney Tunes,” Rebekah said. “There are three standard characters, and they are obvious in their characterization: The Hero, The Heroine and The Villain. Often, there is a fourth as well: The Vamp. The shows include audience participation. We do warmups with the audience beforehand, so that they know when to boo and when to cheer.”
Dinner reservations start at 6 p.m., and the show begins at 8 p.m. The productions are two hours long and follow a three-part format. The show opens with a melodrama that may run up to an hour in length. The play is followed by a 30-minute intermission, which includes a sing-along. The performance concludes with an Olio, a Vaudeville variety show.
Most of the melodramas performed at the Chateau are written by playwrights in the Colorado Springs area, and there is typically a gap of about a decade between repeat showings. So missing a show means it may be 10 years before it is staged again. The Chateau produces three melodramas a year, along with a traditional Rocky Horror Picture Show cult performance around Halloween.
“One of our biggest challenges is getting actors for roles, due to the time commitment. An actor sacrifices his or her weekends for several months. We try not to cast the same actor for two shows in a row, so as not to risk burnout,” said Rebekah.
The Iron Springs Chateau operates as a for-profit business that employs nine people for productions and six to nine people for dining.
“We have consistently grown every year. Each year has gotten better and better,” said Brian. “And actually, parking is an essential part of our income.”
Brian, for most of the year, is at the Chateau at 4:30 a.m. every day to offer paid parking to hikers of The Incline. He typically doesn’t open the Chateau’s lot, which can hold 50 cars, until 5:30 a.m. And the demand is high.
“In 15 minutes, the lot is full,” he said.
The theater, however, can host more than 200 guests. When a show is sold out, the Chateau has been able to offer additional parking with the help of the city of Manitou and the Pikes Peak Cog Railway.
The current show, “Have a Very Merryville Christmas,” opened Nov. 17 and some performances are already sold out. The play was written by Lori, and it will be a shorter melodrama to provide more time for a Christmas sing-along.
“Melodrama is unique in its form. The building is unique. We consistently offer family-friendly shows that appeal to people from 2 years old to 90,” Rebekah said. “We are holding auditions on Dec. 10 and 11 for our next production, ‘A Precious Little Bit of the West,’ which will open in February.”