ALL TRAINS LEAD TO HOME or TRAINING SPACES – Written by Richard Sebastian-Coleman; Directed by Lori Adams-Miller. Produced by the Iron Springs Chateau Historic Melodrama Theatre (444 South Ruxton, Manitou Springs) through September 23. Tickets available at 719-685-5104 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ever since I’ve started monitoring Colorado theatre, I’ve been intrigued by this place in Manitou Springs with the strangely French name. Since we lost Heritage Square, we haven’t had an old-fashioned melodrama theatre to enjoy without going all the way to Cripple Creek. So, a friend and I decided to check this place out. Turns out it was fortuitous timing as the theatre is under new management. Jolene and Craig Howard purchased the restaurant and theatre only two months ago. Whatever it has been in the past 60 years, this is what it is now.
And what it is is a cozy sunlit restaurant on the ground floor surrounded by trees. The restaurant servers are friendly, introduce themselves and serve your pre-ordered meal family style with heaping bowls of mashed potatoes, veggies and warm bread. No credit is given in the program to the chef in the kitchen, but it seems to be an in-house operation using fresh ingredients to present a delicious meal. I had the well-seasoned chicken breast; my friend had the excellent pot roast; both were delicious.
The small theatre seats about 120 people comfortably around tables on the second floor. No elevator but there is a way of getting to the second floor without using stairs. The theatre features an old-fashioned fire curtain with ads for local businesses and a piano stage right.
The show starts with a careful explanation of what is expected of the audience. This form of performance was the original immersive theatre because, as an audience member, you are not just encouraged, but expected to cheer the hero, boo the bad guy and whoop at the vamp. Our audience took their duties seriously and participated with gusto. The players as well entered the performance with energy and a twinkle in their collective eyes, telling their railroad story interspersed with contemporary songs. The company consists of two men – Luke Steiner and Noah Dale Whitstine – and three women – Cassidy Forrest, Lexi Remy and Daisya Brown – all accompanied by Kathryn Allen on the piano.
The intermission brought owner/entertainer Craig Howard to the stage to perform a medley of Bobby Darin songs. He also led the audience in a singalong segment featuring songs whose words were in the program – like ‘Bill Bailey” and “Bye Bye Blackbird
The second act was an extended Curtain Call olio of songs, skits and Dad jokes. The funniest song was performed by Luke and Noah singing “Your Feets Too Big” from AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’. Daisya Brown did a version of “Harper Valley PTA” that took her out in the audience kissing bald men’s heads. But the best voice in the whole company was the surprise appearance of the stage manager Sarah Greenley.
So, this seemed more like a house party than a professional performance. It had a home-grown vibe – a sort of “we’re gonna have a good time” feeling to the whole evening. The energy, the expectation of participation, the engagement with the audience all contributed to the success of the total evening. While this group is nowhere close to Broadway, they are having fun and making sure that you have fun too. I went away looking forward to coming back. Is that not the highest compliment you could pay to a theatre?
A WOW factor of 8 for the show! Meal – WOW factor of 9!
Just a word or two about what’s coming up. In October they are doing a ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW lip-sync set of performances. You should get your toast, toilet paper and water guns and go on down to participate. Then after a short break, they start a new holiday melodrama in November. Yea! An opportunity to go back.