PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, THURSDAY, JULY 17, 2014) — Tonight, be sure to catch PLANET VALENTI TELEVISION as we present our 10th Anniversary Show. PV-TV: You won’t believe your eyes and ears. And catch all of our past episodes on YouTube at

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Tomorrow, THE PLANET posts the response we received from Pittsfield personnel director John DeAngelo in response to our request for the addresses of city department heads, managers, and exempt employees. You have to see the letter to believe it, and THE PLANET shares it with you tomorrow.

Clue to its content: “Transparency.”


HRC Meets July 22; Will it Take Action on Wade’s Charges of ‘Racism” Against Bianchi?

The Human Rights Commission has another meeting coming up. No doubt Doreen Wade has more than a passing interest in the thought process of these adjuciators, who are sitting in judgment of Wade’s allegation of racism against the mayor. Serious charges, those. The commission includes Pummelin’ Pam Malumphy, who is also part of Bianchi’s “outhouse cabinet” (cupboards like that don’t belong in the “kitchen”). One wonder how she can possibly render an objective consideration of Wade’s contention that Mayor Dan Bianchi is a racist.

HRC chairman Josh Cutler informs us that the next meeting will be Tuesday, July 22 at 6 p.m. in the council chambers. At its most recent meeting, the HRC tabled Wade’s allegations, and they remain under unfinished business. Cutler said he expects that the matter will be discussed next week.

“I anticipate the discussion will mostly likely be a wrap-up of the evidence that has been gathered and discussed over the past two meetings,” Cutler said. “There may be some action taken once all is said and done. I also anticipate the discussion and ratification of a code of procedures for future hearings.”

Cutler said the commission is “still unclear of whether there is an active investigation by the [state] attorney general AG or [the federal] Department of Justice].  As you might imagine, that revelation caught us by surprise at the last meeting in June.”
We asked Cutler is he thought Wade’s charges were legit. He responded, “I think certain areas of her complaint are stronger than others.  We have much work to do in Pittsfield to create a playing field that is welcoming and equal for all.”






You can “Send in The Clowns” but leave the rest of the baggage backstage. That can stand as our one-sentence review of A Little Night Music, now playing through July 19 at The Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield.

Steven Sondheim, like a martini, is an acquired taste. At first taste, THE PLANET took to martinis a lot better than we did to Sondheim.  THE PLANET enjoyed him in his 20s as a lyricist (West Side Story, Gypsy) for the memorable tunes written by Leonard Bernstein and Jule Styne.  As a lyricist-songwriter, the whole shmere on his own, Sondheim has the one hit mentioned in our first sentence. Period.

Thus, going in, the able cast of the Berkshire Theatre Group‘s “Night Music” finds the current swiftly against them. If this were a political campaign, the bumper sticker would read, “It’s the material, stupid.” It’s a problem director Ethan Heard cannot get around. Heard hears well Sondheim’s tuneless songs and reads well Hugh Wheeler‘s storyless narrative, but he has trouble filling the Colonial stage with them.

One idle thought: Is the Colonial’s majestic stage too big for Heard, who last year did such a fine job directing The Cat and the Canary for the BTG? Ah, but “Cat” was staged at the intimate Unicorn Theater, a lovely little bandbox of a venue, to cop an Updike. The Unicorn is Fenway Park. The Colonial, by comparison, is Yankee Stadium — the old Yankee Stadium.

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One song, even a great one like “Clowns,” cannot a musical save. Neither can imaginative, atmospheric lighting (Oliver Wason), a functional, stylized set (Reid Thompson); or opulent costuming, especially the women’s gowns (David Murin). Musicals, especially those as devoid of a clear and interesting narrative, live or die on the tunes. Audiences can forgive the veneer provided by thin, weak plots, but they cannot overlook songs that are ungrateful and dead.

Unfortunately for the cast, Sondheim can’t write music to save his clef let alone enhance his puzzlingly inflated reputation. THE PLANET understands the need to play it safe on the main stage, but this safe?

“Clowns” excepted, every other song in Night Music wears on the nerves with the repetitious tedium of a metronome welded to a jack hammer. Listening to the 16 non-“Clown” numbers involves an ordeal for the audience in trying to stay awake. Chief among these musical tautologies is the dreadful “A Weekend in the Country,” which closes the first of the play’s two acts. This endless song, with its maddening redundancy, induced flashbacks to that day in 1980 when we were stuck in one of the “Small World” pontoon boats at DisneyWorld with “It’s a Small World Song” repeating without end.

Sondheim is not Songheim. He’s barely Soundheim.

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A Little Night Music is perhaps the most overrated musical of the American stage, though, admittedly, it also is an acquired taste for which a certain type of theater goer can mindlessly consume. Such, um, “patrons” were well in attendance the night THE PLANET was there. Predictably, they loved it, although we did note a number of people leave at intermission and not come back.

The play, loosely based on the great Swedish director Ingmar Bergman’s film comedy Smiles of a Summer Night, is derivative for all the wrong reasons. We shall spare you the details.

Poor Maureen O’Flynn. Outside of a fabulous rendition of “Clowns” to set up the reconciliation of love interests at play’s end, she has little with to do her outsized talent except to look radiant and make the  most of what Sondheim gives her, which isn’t much. As Desireee, O’Flynn joins the company in “A Glamorous Life,” sings a duet with Fredrik (an excessively thin and reedy Gregg Edelman), and then gets lost in two other songs sung by the entire cast. What a waste.

Other than O’Flynn, there are no A-list voices in Night Music. Most are serviceable in a routine, workmanlike way (Penny Fuller, Kate Baldwin, Monique Barbee, Denis Lambert, Graham Rowat, Jamilyn Manning-White, Patricia Noonan, Phillipa Soo, Eric Van Tielan), while others might have been cast straight from a campus production (Ashton HayleMatt Dengler, Gabriel Douglas). Emma Foley nearly steals a scene or two as the irrepressibly cute Fredrika Armfeldt. Foley’s work becomes more impressive when you think she’s a Pittsfield girl about to enter Taconic High School in the fall as a freshman.

In the end, however, one gets the feeling that the cast somehow knows they’re in a snoozer. Done in by Sondheim’s Sominex, they must try to muster every ounce of their training and experience just to appear interested, Night after A Little Night after A Little Night.

As one Sondheim critic said of the composer: “Supremely overblown and fantastically dull.”


“I stretch lame hands of faith, and grope, / and gather dust and chaffe, and call / To what I feel is Lord of all, / And faintly trust the larger hope.”Alfred Lord Tennyson, from “In Memoriam,” last quatrain from stanza LV, 1850.




  1. Sparkie
    July 17, 2014 at 8:51 am #

    Dan when you say “send in the clowns” are you referring to the way Mellissa Mazzeo and Chris Connell ran the city council meeting last Tuesday night?

    • Payroll Patriot
      July 17, 2014 at 9:26 am #

      Why doesn’t PC TV use the song “Send in the Clowns” as lead in music for the council, school committee, and the school building needy commission.

  2. Ron Kitterman
    July 17, 2014 at 9:34 am #

    I know this is off topic but is the governor in the Chablis again ?

  3. Magic
    July 17, 2014 at 9:37 am #

    I wonder Dan if you were there on a different night. I have heard other people that did not enjoy the performance and some that did. Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    • danvalenti
      July 17, 2014 at 6:44 pm #

      As I said, Sondheim is an acquired taste. Glad you liked it.

  4. Thomas More
    July 17, 2014 at 10:39 am #

    Here’s a rumor to chew on – Wal-Mart wants to build a super store on the site that was building 26 – desires a full grocery store but is not allowed to have on its present site because of Prce Choppers agreement – only a rumour

    • dusty
      July 17, 2014 at 12:24 pm #

      And I believe Big Y has been allowed to box out any more grocery stores on the west side. Who do you pay off for this kind of monopoly?

      Someone also told me once that no one will ever be allowed to open a car wash east of the one on Tyler. Could be just talk. Or not.

  5. amandaWell
    July 17, 2014 at 10:55 am #

    Planet? Your man PUTIN Isn’t looking so hot now! Said it before and again, He’s no better than Stalin.

  6. dusty
    July 17, 2014 at 12:28 pm #

    Is Josh Cutler losing his marbles? Did he talk to the Planet? Does he want to see his career go right down the drain? Geez Josh…please keep your thoughts close to your vest or you won’t be able to get a job within 150 miles of Pittsfield.

    • danvalenti
      July 17, 2014 at 6:45 pm #

      Josh is his own man. He’s learning on the job and hasn’t thrown a perfect game, but he’s still capable of independent thought and action.

  7. Jonathan Melle
    July 17, 2014 at 3:22 pm #

    I don’t understand why Dan Valenti derisively refers to Pam Malumphy with the put-down word “Pummelin’”. I like Pam Malumphy because she is not afraid to stand up to the Good Old Boy network that has run Pittsfield into the ground over the past 3+ decades. She stood up to GOB Jimmy Ruberto. She stood up to Tricia Farley-Bouvier, too.
    Pittsfield politics needs more people like Pam Malumphy if Pittsfield is ever to change for the better.

    • Jonathan Melle
      July 17, 2014 at 4:09 pm #

      Never mind….Pittsfield will never change!

    • #nomorebianchi
      July 17, 2014 at 5:12 pm #

      If it wasn’t for Farley – Bouvier and WHEN in 2003 Pam Malumphy would have never been elected to the city council. She is 0-3 in every election she’s ran in since

      • Jonathan Melle
        July 17, 2014 at 5:23 pm #

        Dan Valenti has portrayed Pam Malumphy as a conspiratorial political hack who does the dirty, behind-the-scenes work of the local and state Democratic Party by splitting the women vote with Rhonda Serre in 2005 so that Chris Speranzo would win Peter Larkin’s old seat as Pittsfield State Representative, which Chris Speranzo resigned to become Clerk of Courts in Pittsfield.
        I don’t buy it. Why would Pam Malumphy conspire with Peter Larkin and Chris Speranzo when she doesn’t like the Good Old Boy network that runs Pittsfield politics? It doesn’t add up or make sense to me.
        Now, Dan Valenti is saying that Pam Malumphy is Mayor Dan Bianchi’s political hack attack dog on the Pittsfield Human Rights Commission. Again, why would Pam Malumphy do the bidding of Dan Bianchi on the local HRC? It doesn’t make sense to me.
        Dan Valenti needs to explain his conspiracies about Pam Malumphy behind-the-scenes influences over Pittsfield politics.
        My opinion of Pam Malumphy is that she is her own person who isn’t afraid to stand up to the Good Old Boys who run Pittsfield politics.

      • danvalenti
        July 17, 2014 at 6:47 pm #

        Actually, she’s 0-5. Lost council re-election, state rep, mayor, council again, and one other that escapes at the moment. 0-5 defines a loser.

        • Jonathan Melle
          July 17, 2014 at 7:03 pm #

          Maybe it is a good thing that Pam Malumphy is 0 – 5 in Pittsfield politics elections. She is not a Good Old Boy minion. She is not an insider. She hasn’t run Pittsfield into the ground!

          • danvalenti
            July 17, 2014 at 8:54 pm #

            By losing so much, JM, Pummelin’ hasn’t had the chance to run Pittsfield into the ground. That being said, her political master, The Empty Suit, is managing quite well on his own. Of course, with her “budinsky” roles on various boards, commissions, and other kiss-ups, she’s doing her best.

  8. amandaWell
    July 17, 2014 at 4:37 pm #

    Valenti is still number one, mind ya!

  9. Linda
    July 17, 2014 at 4:54 pm #

    I saw Pam Malumphy at work way back during the WHEN days. “Pummelin” is perfect. It might even be too mild to fit her. She gives women in politics a bad name.

    • Sparkie
      July 18, 2014 at 9:53 am #

      Let’s not forget her best and closest friend Melissa Mazzeo and their student Lisa Tully. Together they have embarrassed every professional woman in Pittsfield.

  10. C.J.
    July 17, 2014 at 5:19 pm #

    What happened to the reading of the Personnel Director’s letter on Planet TV ? Didn’t happen !

  11. C.J.
    July 17, 2014 at 5:20 pm #

    Sorry misunderstood. Letter to be poated tomorrow.

    • danvalenti
      July 17, 2014 at 6:47 pm #

      Yes, CJ. Tomorrow’s PLANET shall have it.

  12. Mr. X
    July 18, 2014 at 3:07 am #

    Mr. Melle…don’t kid yourself…Pam is very firmly entrenched into the Bianchi camp…and she is very good friends with Mrs. Mazzeo…do the math sir.