Carmel Valley actress to star in San Diego Musical Theatre’s ‘White Christmas’

By Kristina Houck

Although it’s sunny in San Diego, it will be a “White Christmas” at the Birch North Park Theatre.

Beginning Dec. 12, San Diego Musical Theatre will present “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” for the second consecutive year at the local theater.

“We’re trying to make it a holiday tradition,” said Carmel Valley actress Jill Townsend, who will reprise her role as Judy Haynes, the younger sister of the Haynes sisters.

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

Directed by Todd Nielsen, conducted by Don LeMaster and choreographed by Lisa Hopkins, the show features well-known standards, including “Blue Skies,” “How Deep is the Ocean” and “White Christmas.”

“It’s basically a holiday card come to life,” Townsend said. “There’s lots of dancing and singing. It features all of the greats by Irving Berlin, so that’s fantastic!”

A San Diego native, Townsend’s theater credits include national tours of “A Chorus Line” and “Camelot,” as well as regional shows of “Grease,” “Annie Get Your Gun,” “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “Fiddler on the Roof,” among others.

One of her favorite shows took place in 2001, when she met her husband, Robert Townsend. The pair starred opposite each other as Laurey and Curly in “Oklahoma!” at the Welk Resort in San Diego. He is currently on the national tour of “Jersey Boys.”

“I love the people that I get to meet and the places that I get to go. I love everything about musical theater,” Townsend said. “It’s something that I’ve been passionate about since I was a young kid, and I feel blessed that I get to make a living out of it as an adult.”

Townsend has been a performer nearly all her life. She started ice skating at age 4 and later began dancing. At 11 years old, she landed her first theater role, Amaryllis, in “The Music Man.”

“I was bitten by the theater bug,” she said. “I just loved it and didn’t want to stop doing it.”

Townsend began taking singing lessons and spent her summers at Moonlight Stage Productions in Vista. She later studied drama at UC Irvine.

Although their professions take them throughout the country, Townsend returned to her hometown when the couple purchased a home in Carmel Valley earlier this year. Townsend said she is looking forward to participating in more local productions and once again being a part of “White Christmas,” a new San Diego holiday tradition.

“It’s a nearly 30-member cast with a 22-piece orchestra. Rarely do you see that these days,” Townsend said. “It’s such a great family show.”

“Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” will run Dec. 12-22 at the Birch North Park Theatre, located at 2891 University Ave. in San Diego.

Tickets range from $42-$72. Tickets for children 12 and younger are half price. Discounts are also available for seniors and students.

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