• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Comedic actors Withers, Wilkeson return for an encore

MAX AND LEO as portrayed by Johnathan Watson, left, and Forrest Loeffler rehearse a scene from “The Producers,” which opens at Woodford Theatre Friday night, Oct. 5. The Mel Brooks musical comedy is rated PG-13 for language and adult content. (Photo by Bob Vlach)

TERRY WITHERS, left, and Melissa Rae Wilkeson return to the Woodford Theatre stage for “The Producers,” opening Friday, Oct. 5. The Woodford County actors do not have any scenes together in the Mel Brooks musical, but took a break from rehearsals Monday night to show how much they enjoy entertaining an audience. (Photo by Bob Vlach)

Versailles residents Terry Withers and Melissa Rae Wilkeson will return to Woodford Theatre’s stage for another comedic turn in “The Producers,” opening Friday, Oct. 5.

Withers says he went to auditions knowing he wanted to play one character – Carmen Ghia. It was just one of those roles that he’d always wanted to play.

“That part,” Withers explains, “…I knew exactly how to play it.” And he was confident his director, Vanessa Becker Weig, would let him know if he needed to tone down his portrayal of what he describes as an outrageous character.

“Very seldom do they need to tell me to bring it up,” he adds.

Wilkeson, who’s been in productions with Withers numerous times over the years, didn’t plan on having a role in “The Producers” – even as a supporting player.

Wilkeson, who plays Sister Robert Anne in Woodford Theatre’s upcoming “Nutcrackers: The Nunsense Christmas Musical,” says “I was looking forward to a little break,” but her hometown theatre company needed her. So she answered their call and will play: Hold Me Touch Me/Nun/Springtime Sausage.

“I have very small roles in this,” she explains before Withers adds, “but you make the most of every moment.” And he says Woodford Theatre audiences will be glad they got to see her onstage again.

“When it comes to a character role,” Withers says, “Melissa is hands down one of the finest actresses in Central Kentucky. Give her a stage and a part and she’s going to make the most of it. And she’s wonderful in this.”

Withers laughs when he remembers seeing his name next to Carmen on the cast list and shouting, “I’ve got it. I got the part.”

When somebody asks him why they should come see “The Producers,” Withers tells them, “It’s Mel Brooks.” He repeats himself – “It’s Mel Brooks” – when they ask if there are any other reasons.

“To do Mel Brooks,” he adds, “Mel (Wilkeson, not Brooks) and I will die healthy.”

In recent years, Withers has scaled back his performance schedule, doing one show most seasons. He previously averaged two productions a year and did all four shows one season.

“It was like a marathon, but to me that was what I enjoyed doing. That’s my avocation,” Withers explains.

Wilkeson says she misses the friendships and camaraderie when she’s not doing a show. If she and Withers haven’t been in the same production for awhile, he says we typically “pick up right where we left off.”

Withers, who will celebrate his 62nd birthday two days after Woodford Theatre’s final performance of “The Producers,” says, “If you’re an actor, the best present you can have is being in a show or rehearsing a show.”

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