Raw, Raucous and Rewarding: MRT’s Little Orphan Danny Mixes Hilarious Songs with Difficult Truths

The Merrimack Repertory Theatre current production is “Little Orphan Danny,” billed as “a moving musical memoir about adoption.”

Maybe the name Dan Finnerty doesn’t ring a bell, but you may have seen him onscreen. Finnerty is the creator of “The Dan Band,” a comedy rock band known for its raunchy takes on otherwise sweet-natured pop songs. The Dan Band has snuck into films such as “Starsky & Hutch,” “The Hangover,” and “Old School.”

“Little Orphan Danny” pulls aside the curtain and shows us the unexpected depth behind the foul-mouthed singer. The story is based on Finnerty’s own life as a boy who was adopted at birth and who wouldn’t meet his birth family until the age of 29. How does it go when he finally meets his mom? Let’s just say the results are … unexpected.

Left: Julie Foldesi (Band Member/Women) and Dan Finnerty (Book, Lyrics, Music/Danny) Photo by Meghan Moore. Right: Dan Lipton (Music Director), Dan Finnerty (Book, Music, Lyrics/Danny), and Julie Foldesi (Band Member/Women) Photo by Meghan Moore.

We see the younger Finnerty as torn between two worlds: he is at times a punk rock teenage rebel, at others the member of a strict Catholic household where he can’t say “frick” or “weiners and butts.” The two worlds can’t be reconciled, and he’s left confused and misunderstood. Ultimately, he screams to the heavens, “Everything sucks.”

Such dark moments are offset by musical numbers which make clear that Finnerty’s introspective side hasn’t overshadowed his ability to play the naughty class clown. Little Orphan Danny sings his own version of the Annie hit “Maybe” in a parody called “Perhaps” in which he imagines his birth family as filled with “red headed fatties with freckles watching a lot of TV.” What would Miss Hannigan think of that?

Finnerty moves confidently about the stage, jumping into the front row for hilarious crowd work at times, and spilling his guts through song. The rawness of the performance exposes its star as uncertain, torn and searching.

This makes for a compelling, honest and sincere production while being a comical romp with lots of catchy, groovy music.

Little Orphan Danny ends its short run on April 15, so you’ll need to act quickly if you want to grab tickets. You can get them at MRT.org, or by calling the box office at (978) 654-4678.

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