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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014

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Scrooge (standing) looks upon The Cratchit family, led by actors Jonathan Wainwright (far right) and Marti Gobel.
Scrooge (standing) looks upon The Cratchit family, led by actors Jonathan Wainwright (far right) and Marti Gobel. (Photo: Michael Brosilow)

Catching up with the Cratchits from The Rep's "A Christmas Carol"

When it comes to the classic story of "A Christmas Carol," Scrooge has always been the star. That’s especially the case this year for The Rep’s annual production of Charles Dickens’s holiday staple, as a new Scrooge – Jonathan Smoots – takes on the classic character’s crotchety persona.

But just as important to the story are the Cratchits, who embody the Christmas spirit and the human spirit so essential to Dickens’s fable. For the past few years, the two characters have been played by the same two Milwaukee actors: Jonathan Wainwright and Marti Gobel. This year’s run – which opened last week – is no different. chatted with the two actors to find out what it’s like returning to the roles, bringing the Cratchits to life and the timeless power of "A Christmas Carol." You've been in "A Christmas Carol" for several productions now. What's it like returning to a show and a role like this every year? Do you bring something new to it or learn something new from it every time?

Jonathan Wainwright: I had never done something where I was returning as the same character and in a situation where so many others in the show – even if they were returning – were playing different roles. It’s very interesting to see the whole thing unfold in a familiar, yet organically different, way. And as it unfolds, to see where you fit and how the interactions change ever so slightly can be a challenge to our tendency to want to stay in a comfort zone. So even though it’s the same role, it is always different at the detail level. And as Cratchit, the primary concern is finding your way into Scrooge – or a new Scrooge as the case may be – and into his heart as it were.

Marti Gobel: It has been a great joy to play Mrs. Cratchit for the third year. My approach to the life of the Cratchits has been consistent – through the guidance of the director – but small adjustments are made based on the characters that have new actors port…

The first trailer for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" will be attached to every movie showing at the Marcus Majestic Cinema on Friday.
The first trailer for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" will be attached to every movie showing at the Marcus Majestic Cinema on Friday.

"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" trailer to play Friday at the Majestic

I don't know if you've heard, but they're making a new "Star Wars" movie. Several, actually, but the first one coming up is called "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." And after months of speculation, dramatic cast reveals, cryptic messages from director J.J. Abrams, a broken Harrison Ford and leaks – both small and apparently gigantic – it's finally time to see what this thing's going to look like.

Yesterday, Disney announced that a select few theaters across the nation would play the first preview for the guaranteed blockbuster on Friday. And right at the bottom of the list of 30 lucky theaters is the Marcus Majestic Cinema in Brookfield.

Good news, Milwaukee "Star Wars" fans; you'll be able to witness the power of a fully operational 88-second "The Force Awakens" trailer. Bad news, Majestic employees, your Black Friday shift just got a whole lot worse. 

The trailer will be attached to every single showing at the Marcus Majestic beginning Friday and continuing throughout the weekend, so no matter what movie you want to see, 88 seconds of "The Force Awakens" will be there. And I would bet the odds are very unlikely of them offering refunds to those simply buying a ticket for the trailer, so pick your movie wisely. 

It's quite the fanfare, but nothing particularly new for the "Star Wars" franchise. Back in 1998, the trailer for "The Phantom Menace" made its hotly anticipated premiere attached to screenings of "Wing Commander," "Meet Joe Black," "The Siege" and "The Waterboy." Ticket sales instantly improved for all of those movies, and even now, it's the only reason anybody particularly remembers "Wing Commander" or "Meet Joe Black." Well, other than this:

That's brilliant. 

I've generally been handling the new "Star Wars" with cautious optimism and a hefty scoop of cynicism (George Lucas can have that effect on film franchises), but I must admit: This is pretty cool.

Trailers for big movies don't typically make their premieres on the big screen anymore. …

The cast of "Pitch Perfect" has some new co-stars for its sequel, namely Packer linebacker Clay Matthews.
The cast of "Pitch Perfect" has some new co-stars for its sequel, namely Packer linebacker Clay Matthews.

Packers trade out their helmets for harmonies in "Pitch Perfect 2" trailer

After dropping 50 points on back-to-back opponents, Clay Matthews and a few other Packers are moving on to a new hobby: dropping beats.

The trailer for "Pitch Perfect 2" – the sequel to 2012's surprise smash a cappella comedy hit that made the world fall in love with Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, and beating and flipping cups in rhythmic fashion – came out this morning, sending the Barden Bellas to a global singing smackdown.

Not surprisingly, the movie looks pretty much hilarious, with the deep cast of sharp comic actors all returning. Kendrick is always a feisty on-screen charmer (even back in her "Twilight" days!), Wilson is just as good with a snappy, goofy joke as she is throwing herself down some stairs with entertainingly reckless abandon and seeing John Michael Higgins is never a sad sight.

There are a few new faces as well, including David Cross and Hailee Steinfeld of "True Grit," playing one of the group's new young recruits. If you think she looks a full decade younger than her co-stars, that's because she is actually a full decade younger than her co-stars. 

Among those new faces, however, is one very familiar to sports fans: Packers linebacker Clay Matthews, sans helmet (and sleeves). Matthews – flanked on both sides by fellow Packers TJ Lang, Josh Sitton, Don Barclay and David Bakhtiari – makes his appearance around the 1:06 mark in the trailer. Acute eyes may think they also spot Aaron Rodgers cheering in the background, but after going all Zapruder film on the a cappella clip, we've determined it's just a very tan, very convenient look-alike.

(Update: That's not just a look-alike; that's Aaron's brother and current Canadian Football League practice roster quarterback Jordan Rodgers.)

Bakhtiari was apparently the mastermind behind getting Clay and the offensive line – all fans of the first film – into "Pitch Perfect 2."

"David and his affinity for social media, reaching out to other people with weird direct messages and replies, …

Seth MacFarlane made a surprise appearance last weekend at Lucille's Piano Bar & Grill.
Seth MacFarlane made a surprise appearance last weekend at Lucille's Piano Bar & Grill.

Seth MacFarlane drops by Lucille's to perform a few songs

If you happened to be at Lucille’s Piano Bar last Saturday night, you got more of a show that you were probably expecting.

"Family Guy" and "Ted" creator (as well as the writer-director-star behind "A Million Ways to Die in the West," but let’s choose to forget that right now) Seth MacFarlane took a break from "Ted 2" and took the stage at Lucille’s this past weekend to drink, do a little dance and perform a couple of classic songs. Several patrons captured the showman’s impromptu performance of Frank Sinatra’s "Luck Be A Lady" on video, as well as MacFarlane poking fun at the pianist for riding the struggle bus through the classic tune.

The pianist, Steve Watts, later commented on Facebook, "He called me out on it, rightfully so." According to Watts, however, he redeemed himself with MacFarlane with the rest of the one-time Academy Awards host’s setlist, including "New York, New York," "The Love Boat" theme and "an off-the-beaten-path Barry Manilow song."

Now, you’re probably thinking, "Seth MacFarlane was in Milwaukee this past weekend? Well, that’s almost as random as that one time when ‘Family Guy’ cut to a completely random, probably off-color pop culture reference joke." But there’s actually some rationale for this seemingly random celebrity sighting.

According to eyewitness accounts, MacFarlane was at Lucille's with actress Jessica Szohr and her family celebrating her mother's birthday. MacFarlane is reportedly dating the former "Gossip Girl" star – as well as the star of "Piranha 3-D," the greatest cinematic achievement in the history of the medium – who also happens to be a Menomonee Falls native. The full video shows Szohr participated in the surprise gig as well, doing a fun little dance with MacFarlane in the song's opening.

The tune's a little rough, but I think we can all agree it's better than his original ditty "We Saw Your Boobs" at the Oscars …