Big names roll into small D&R theater

How is the D & R Theatre attracting performers such as Leanne Rimes, Randy Travis and Bill Cosby to Aberdeen?

To quote the old adage, it’s three words: location, location, location.

“There’s a 100-mile rule,” said John Yonich of Bellevue, the theater’s owner. “It’s an unwritten rule. We’re 100 miles from Portland and 100 miles from Seattle.

“If Snoqualmie Casino has somebody, we can have them the next night, but Little Creek Casino couldn’t have them, Emerald Queen couldn’t have them,” he said. “It’s the same thing if they were coming from Portland.”

Travis, who has had 16 No. 1 singles on the country charts and won four Grammys, is playing the 1,250-seat theater tonight. On Saturday, he’s off to Tacoma’s Emerald Queen.

Many of the names playing the theater, which was built in 1923 and restored and reopened in late 2009, are the same ones that play the casinos.

But the difference in the venue is an advantage for D & R, which was built for live shows during Aberdeen’s heyday and restored to its original style, complete with a replica neon sign.

“What really helps us is that we’re a theater,” Yonich said. “There’s no smoking, and you can bring your kids. If they have their druthers, artists would rather play in a theater than a casino.”

Rimes, who played at D & R a few weeks ago, particularly enjoyed the Aberdeen location when she came through with now-husband Eddie Cibrian.

“She loved it,” he said. “They stayed at the beach.”

The theater has a storied history. It hosted live performances from the 1920s, when Aberdeen was a wealthy timber town, through the 1940s when it was converted to a movie theater.

Later, live performances were there again, but the building’s condition was declining.

“One of the last shows ever to perform here was Nirvana,” Yonich said. “That was in 1985, and the place closed in 1985.”

It then stood empty for more than two decades.

“I bought it in 2007, and the place was a wreck,” he said. “It was ready to fall over.”

Yonich is proud of his theater restoration and is in the process of applying to have it placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“The original millwork is here,” he said. “Everything looks the way it was built. The only thing that really changed were the seats. People are just bigger now.”

Randy Travis

What: Country icon Randy Travis is playing a show in Aberdeen on his way to Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma. Taryn Cross of Bellingham opens.

When: 7 tonight

Where: D & R Theatre, 205 S. I St., Aberdeen

Tickets: $38-$78

Information: 360-532-9348 or


Jimmie Vaughan, 7 p.m. July 15

Bill Cosby, 7 p.m. July 23

Dennis DeYoung: The Music of Styx, 7 p.m. Aug. 5

REO Speedwagon, 7 p.m. Aug. 7

Loretta Lynn, 7 p.m. Aug 12

Eric Church, Aug. 21

Gallagher, Aug. 26

Amy Grant, Sept. 13

The B-52s, Sept. 15

Wynonna, Nov. 22