Packed house for free D&R Theatre show

When the audience cheered for the Yonich family, the applause from the packed house was as loud as the show that would follow.

“It’s wonderful to have this theater re-opened,” Tony Halekakis said to the crowd that packed into the D&R Theatre Saturday night for the first show since owner John Yonich closed it early last month. Halekakis will handle marketing and season ticket sales going forward.

“It’s just kind of a celebration; we want everyone to have a good time,” Yonich said of the free show. “I’ve never done this before, it’s a great crowd.

The first show brought acclaimed composer and guitarist Jesse Cook to the 1920’s era theater, showcasing his unique blend of nouveau flamenco, jazz and world music.

Devan Purdy said he’d never heard of Cook and never managed to make it to the D&R before it closed, but said he “definitely will come back. They did a really good job.”

Kelli Dinecu said she’s been coming to the theater since it was a movie theater, a role the theater may take on again one day. At Saturday’s re-opening, a new movie screen was on display, along with a high-definition projector. Dinecu said it was hard seeing it boarded up again last month after the theater of her youth went the same way.

“I am so glad it’s open. I am so happy they were able to work together and come to an agreement. Because this is what this community needs. It’s nice to see the lights on,” she said.

Yonich had cited issues with government bureaucracy as a reason for closing the theater, but several agencies and elected officials reached out to him after the closure to help resolve some issues.

Now, the staff is back and happy to be working together.

“It’s one team. We’ve got to keep this going. It’s important to downtown. Civic pride is very important to everyone here,” Yonich said.

The team spirit even extends next door to Backstage Espresso, where a team of baristas deftly handled the pre-show crowd. Re-opening the shop was a process of its own, barista Jordan Eberwein said.

“I was here for 40 hours one weekend” getting the cafe prepared for their own exacting standards, she said. “This is my home.”