Carmel Valley actress performs three roles in ‘Irving Berlin’s White Christmas’


Like sunny skies, “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” is becoming a San Diego holiday tradition. Beginning Dec. 11, San Diego Musical Theatre will present the holiday classic for the third consecutive year, this time at North Park Theatre.

“It’s such a classic, and everybody loves it,” said Carmel Valley actress Debra Wanger, who has three roles in the show. “It’s become a holiday tradition.”

Based on the 1954 musical film of the same name, “White Christmas” features 17 Irving Berlin songs performed by a live 22-piece orchestra. In the musical, set after World War II, veterans Bob Wallace and Phil Davis follow a duo of singing sisters on their way to a Christmas show at a Vermont lodge.

Directed by Todd Nielsen and choreographed by Lisa Hopkins, the show features well-known standards, including “Blue Skies,” “I Love a Piano,” “How Deep Is the Ocean” and “White Christmas.”

“San Diego Musical Theatre produces some really great, classic musicals,” said Wanger, who has lived in Carmel Valley since 2000. “Not a lot of theaters are doing big shows with a full orchestra. It’s almost unheard-of these days, and it’s a great luxury.”

A Chicago native, Wanger began acting in school and community plays when she was 9 years old. She studied musical theater at Cincinnati Conservatory and earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Tufts University.

From Boston to Los Angeles, Wanger has performed on stages across the country. When she moved to Los Angeles in 1994, she took a brief hiatus from acting to launch a career as a talent manager.

Wanger returned to the stage when she relocated to San Diego in 1997. Since then, she has performed for audiences in productions at Cygnet Theatre, Intrepid Shakespeare Company, La Jolla Stage Company, Lyric Opera San Diego, Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company, New Village Arts Theatre, North Coast Repertory Theatre and San Diego Musical Theatre, among others. She also started a family and has three children, 9-year-old twins and a 3-year-old.

Wanger also returned to school, earning her master’s in musical theater from San Diego State University in 2000.

She has taught acting at SDSU and J* Company Youth Theatre, and served as youth choir director at Temple Adat Shalom, where she also directed stage productions. Recently, she established a drama program at The Children’s School in La Jolla.

“As a busy mom with three little kids, this is my grown-up playtime,” said Wanger about her acting career. “It’s really fun to get to be with grown-ups but not act too serious and not be too grown-up. This time is just for me. I get to be social and I get to pretend, but no Barbies are involved.”

This is Wanger’s third production at San Diego Musical Theatre, having previously been cast in the theater’s adaptations of “Footloose” and “The Sound of Music.” She portrays a train passenger, secretary and company seamstress in the production.

“I’m doing triple duty, but it’s fun to sink my teeth into three different parts and see how I can make them different and fun,” Wanger said.

“Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” runs Dec. 11-21 at the North Park Theatre, 2891 University Ave. in San Diego.

Tickets range from $42-$72. Children 16 and under save $10. Discounts are also available for seniors and students.

For information or to purchase tickets, call 858-560-5740 or visit