Theater & Dance
Interview feature
"The Sound of Music"

By: Music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse
Produced by: Foothill Music Theatre
Directed by: Milissa Carey
Choreographed by: Brett and Carmichael "C.J." Blankenship
Music direction by: William Liberatore
Featuring: Jillian Bader as Maria, Scott Solomon as Capt. von Trapp, Aaron Hurley as Max Detweiler, Elizabeth Claire Lawrence as Elsa Schraeder, Rachel Michelberg at Mother Abbess, Leandra Saenz as Sister Sophia, Joanie Pugh Newman as Sister Berthe, Melissa Costa as Sister Magaretta, Madison Colgate as Liesl von Trapp, Ryan Rathbun as Rolf Gruber, Jake Miller and Austin Ota as Friedrich, Mary Hutton and Charlotte Kearns as Louisa, Billy Hutton and Wesley Stewart as Kurt, Anna Savage and Sofia Oberg as Brigitta, Sheridan Stewart as Marta, Mary Hutton and Alyssa Kim as Gretl. Ensemble includes April Aguilar, Voula Brown, Anthony Cardoza, Michelle Curran, Lauren D'Ambrosio, Emma Dapkus, Noah DeMoss Kathleen Hornbacker, Sarah Beth Johnson, M.C. Mendonca, Hannah Milon, Christi Skinner, Amara Snow-Miller, Jonathan Trimble, and Grace Wilken.
When: July 19 through August 5, 2018. 7:30 p.m. Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays
Where: Smithwick Theatre, Foothill College, I-280 and El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills
Tickets: $12-$32; visit or call 650-949-7360.

Bader, with Stewart, Ota, Colgate, Kim, Stewart and Kearns
David Allen / Foothill Music Theatre
Jillian Bader as Maria, center, teaches the von Trapp children how to sing their “Do Re Mi’s” in Foothill Music Theatre’s “The Sound of Music,” performing July 19-August 5, 2018, in Los Altos Hills. From left, the children are Wesley Stewart, Austin Ota, Madison Colgate, Alyssa Kim, Sheridan Stewart and Charlotte Kearns) NOTE: These children appear in performances July 19, 21, 27, 29 and August 3 and 5, 2018.
The foothills are alive
with 'The Sound of Music'
William Liberatore and Jillian Bader
talk about bringing the beloved show to life
July 13, 2018

This story first appeared in the Palo Alto Daily News.

"The Sound of Music" at Foothill Music Theatre "is going to be great," said the show's music director, William J. Liberatore. "It has a great cast, a great orchestra. It has a lot of things, musically, that I love ... a big chorus of nuns, and of course, kids. I'm a teacher, I love kids. The show has a little of everything I like."

Liberatore, who teaches the choirs at Gunn High School in Palo Alto, and is also the resident music director at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, was looking forward to something of a break from his crushing schedule.

"Summer is one of the best parts of teaching, to get this really nice change of pace," Liberatore said in a phone interview. "I love my job, but it's nice to get away."

But then he got the call from Millisa Carey, who is directing the show at the Los Altos Hills campus of Foothill College.

"Here I have this little break," said Liberatore, "and what do I do? I agree to do 'The Sound of Music.' It was the first show I ever played, when I was sixth grader at De Anza Elementary in Palo Alto.

"It's gonna be great," said Liberatore. "One of the first things I said to Milissa was, 'Isn't this unbelievable, that the script is now unbelievably relevant?' A few years ago, it was an old war horse. Now it's relevant, with its ending showing children trying to escape their country."

"The Sound of Music," loosely based on Maria von Trapp's memoir, " The Story of the Trapp Family Singers," opened on Broadway in 1959, with Mary Martin playing the young novitiate who becomes caretaker of Capt. von Trapp's seven children. And who eventually marries von Trapp, and escapes Austria after the Anschluss.

In real life, the von Trapps took a train to Italy, then continued on to London and then the United States. In the musical, and later in the 1965 movie, they escape the Germans by hiking on foot over the Alps to Switzerland. More dramatic.

There may not be too many people left who saw Mary Martin as Maria on Broadway, six decades ago, but millions of people have seen the 1965 movie, in which the peerless Julie Andrews won hearts and minds as Maria. Who can forget Andrews standing on a mountain top singing the title song? How many of us can sing along with "Do-Re-Mi," "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" and "Edelweiss"?

Big soprano shoes to fill, but Jillian Bader, who is the Maria of the Foothill production, is not worried.

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"I don't think it's intimating," said Bader in a phone interview. "I always loved what Julie Andrews did, and wanted to emulate her. Everybody has a different voice. Her voice was pleasing. My voice is also pleasing. It's good to find a show where I fit in the type.

"The big deal," she said, "which is intimidating, is to carry the entire show. But I am confident I have the skills. …

"Elsa and Max have two songs I'm not in," Bader said, "and there are a couple of scenes when Maria leaves. But otherwise, I'm on stage. It's episodic — everything moves really fast — there are quite a few quick costume changes. I will probably have to do some underdressing."

"It doesn't even enter my thoughts" to compare Bader to Andrews, said Liberatore, who is hugely respected as a music director. "You never could." But, Bader "has a lot of Julie Andrews-esque things about her — her energy, her looks, her seamless voice. There is no break in her voice."

Liberatore is tickled by a personal connection with Bader, whose maiden name is Lawson — she was married to Matt Bader in September.

"It's part of the fun of never leaving your town," said Liberatore, who was raised in Palo Alto, and while he now lives just down El Camino Real in Mountain View, still works in Palo Alto. "I was in a play with Jillian's father, Hank Lawson, in 1973. 'The Little Mermaid, at Palo Alto Children's Theatre. I was 11.

"I love all the community connections."

Working with the children who play the younger von Trapps is fun, said Bader. "There are a couple who are very cute, and absolute scene stealers. They are all very sweet. I am very impressed by all of them, how they are memorizing their lines, knowing their blocking ... I haven't worked with kids for a very long time, possibly not since I was a kid, at Peninsula Youth Theatre.

"Billy is really great — really great — with the kids," Bader said. "Every once in a while he pulls out his teacher voice, but he knows what he wants. He gives excellent performance notes, and is great on the piano."

Bader performed in "The Sound of Music" when she was "12 or 13," at Peninsula Youth Theatre. "I played Mother Abbess. I was pretty tall, so most of my childhood career I played adults."

Raised in Saratoga, Bader went to Saint Francis High in Mountain View. She went to Pepperdine in Southern California, and stayed in the southland for years, working for Disney, singing on cruise lines, and with a small a capella combo, the Mistletones, which sang pop songs with Christmas-type lyrics. Such as "Every Wish You Make," a parody of Sting's "Every Breath You Take," and "Toy Sack," a parody of the B-52's "Love Shack." Catch them on YouTube.

Bader moved back to the San Francisco Bay Area fairly recently, but has already done a couple of shows, as well as working at her day job. She was in "Into the Woods" at Notre Dame de Namur in Belmont, and just weeks ago closed "Jesus Christ Superstar" at Ray of Light Theatre in San Francisco. "It was probably the first show I've been in that was all women," she said. "It was a wonderful, great cast. Everybody was supportive."

Liberatore is also busy getting ready for TheatreWorks's New Works Festival, which runs August 10-19, 2018, at Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto. It includes three staged readings of Paul Gordon's new musical, "Pride & Prejudice."

"My job is to teach the vocals, craft the musical performance, play the piano, help them to understand how it will fit together.

"I am definitely busy, but at a much more relaxed pace" than when school is in session.

Email John Orr at

Jillian Bader
David Allen / Foothill Music Theatre
Jillian Bader as Maria in "The Sound of Music," playing at Foothill Theatre in Los Altos Hills, July 19 through Aug. 5, 2018.
William Liberatore
John Orr / Regarding Arts
William Liberatore, music director of TheatreWorks, at rehearsal for "A Civil War Christmas" at the TheatreWorks rehearsal facility in Menlo Park, California, on November 24, 2009. He was also the music director for "The Sound of Music" at Foothill Music Theatre in 2018.