The Charger Blog

Lab Manager to Make Stage Debut in Upcoming ‘Matilda’ Production

Jennifer Passaretti of the University’s Department of Biology and Environmental Science gets out of the laboratory and on to the stage to play Zinnia Wormwood in Wallingford Community Theater’s ‘Matilda.’ The curtain comes up August 1 to 3 at 7:30 p.m.

July 31, 2019

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Photo of Joe and Jennifer Passaretti
Jennifer Passaretti and her husband, Joe, play Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood.

Everything about Jennifer Passaretti’s stage debut has been bold – beginning with her audition. Singing in front of an audience for the first time, she chose what she calls a "very unorthodox" audition song: "Baby Shark," the popular and famously catchy children’s song. It turned out to be the right song to land her the comedic role of Mrs. Zinnia Wormwood in Wallingford Community Theater’s musical "Matilda."

Aside from her role as "elf #9" in her third grade Christmas play, Passaretti has never been on stage. For her role as Matilda’s self-absorbed and book-hating mother, she will be singing and dancing in front of an audience – something outside of her comfort zone.

"I pushed myself to do things that I never thought were possible," said Passaretti. "My big scene requires me to sing and dance at the same time, which requires a lot of breath control. I’m amazed at how much I can do now."

A comedy with more than 150 cast members, including many children, the musical takes center stage this week at Mark T. Sheehan High School in Wallingford. The curtain comes up nightly from Thursday through Saturday, August 1 to 3, at 7:30 p.m.

Based on the children’s novel "Matilda" by Roald Dahl, the musical is about Matilda Wormwood, a young, brilliant girl who loves to read and who has developed special powers. Her cruel, dimwitted parents don’t know that she is a genius, and she has a few tricks up her sleeve for them, as well as for the bully headmistress at her school.

The popular book was also made into a movie, in which the real-life husband and wife team of Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman played Matilda’s parents. Similarly, Passaretti’s husband, Joe, plays Mr. Wormwood, and they auditioned together.

"I pushed myself to do things that I never thought were possible." Jennifer Passaretti
Image of Jennifer Passaretti
Jennifer Passaretti as Zinnia Wormwood.

"It is so much fun to play a character who is my polar opposite," said Passaretti. "Zinnia Wormwood is obsessed with ballroom dancing, hates books, is extremely vain and self-absorbed, and believes that girls should be focused on hair and makeup. Playing a villain is so satisfying, but she is a loveable villain who genuinely wants to help smart girls become more like her."

Although this is Passaretti’s first role on stage, she hopes it will not be her last. She will be taking a directing course at the University this fall, and she hopes to get involved with other productions. But first, she is focused on making her acting debut.

"You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll root for the good guys and sometimes root for the bad guys," said Passaretti. "Many people are coming to see the play because they grew up reading the book. If you like dark humor, then this is the show for you."