Co-Creator and Performer Dan Finnerty (Frontman of The Dan Band) answers questions about his new play Little Orphan Danny.
How did you approach telling not only your story but also both of your mothers’ sides of the story?
This was all a mistake. I’d been invited by New York Stage and Film to try and develop a new show based on my comedy band, The Dan Band. I met Sean Daniels and invited him to go with me and we sat in a room for five hours and I told him every funny story I have. I briefly mentioned I was adopted and found my birthmother and then went on to my next funny story and he was like “Wait … go back to the adopted part.” So here we are. It’s been a long process of me figuring out how to tell this story from my point of view and then making sure my mom and birthmother were also cool with it being told. I hope I remembered to ask them.
You’re the lead singer in a band where you make all the decisions. What’s it like working with a director for a musical show?
I’ve actually really enjoyed it. After so many years of cranking out ideas for my band, I like having someone else be in charge. Sean has been great about letting me still at least think I have the final word. But I think that comes with the territory when it’s a show you’re writing about your life and your people. And he’s been very patient as I struggle daily with wanting to be involved in every little aspect of the production. Even now I want to ask you what font this will be displayed in.
You’re known for hilarious impro-visational moments on stage and in film. Will there be improv in Little Orphan Danny?
I love improv and always try and sneak it into any project I’m working on. Probably because I never want to learn my lines. I’d hoped to continue my long tradition of planning nothing and just jumping into the crowd to see what happens for this show, but luckily for you, Sean is a professional and made me write actual lines to memorize. But I’m told the director usually takes off after opening night, so it’ll be a free-for-all once he’s outta here.
The music and lyrics in this show are incredibly moving. How did it all come together with your musical collaborators?
Thanks. As a guy who is mainly known for singing comedy covers, that makes me like you. Once we’d locked into which stories I was going to tell, I would go off and write lyrics and melodies for the songs and then come and sing them to Dan Lipton. He’d arrange them into something that would sound better than just me singing and playing a pair of spoons. He also composed a lot of the great incidental music that happens throughout the show.
Some audiences will know you from your film and television roles, along with The Dan Band. What’s it like being on a theatre stage and telling such a personal story?
I actually did a show in this very theater back when I was at Emerson College in Boston. It was a summer show called Lowell: An American Patchwork. I played an Irishman who worked on the Pawtucket Canal and was in love with a Mill Worker named …Millie. So it’s crazy to be back on the same stage, all these years later. As far as telling such a personal story, it’s pretty intense. I’m not really a “share your feelings” kind of guy, so this is all new to me. And I care a lot about honoring these people I’m talking about in the show. It’s tricky when they’re real people in your life and actually might be sitting in the audience at some point. I still can’t even believe I’m doing it. I still know my lines from the Lowell show if it’s not too late to do that one instead?
The show is relevant for every mom and child, but it’s especially relevant for adopted kids and their parents. What do you want them to take away from this show?
I guess just the understanding that most adopted kids have a basic human desire to find out the answer to the secret they’ve been told exists about them, but it’s completely separate from how they feel about their parents who raised them.
Coffee order: I quit coffee after a 10-year Frappuccino addiction that caused a 10lb face-fat addition.
Dog or cat: Dogs forever. Cats are losers.
Favorite guilty pleasure song: “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go”
Favorite way to relieve stress: Cats.
Dinner with one person, dead or alive: Charo
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Little Orphan Danny runs March 21 – April 15, 2018.