Santa Fe High School choir teacher takes on the role of Willy Wonka

March 7, 2019 | Katherine Adams

Santa Fe High School choir teacher takes on the role of Willy Wonka

Gunnar Tietge only heard about the auditions for UHCL's production of “Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka” through a friend who asked him to help prepare him for the singing part. Tietge, a choir teacher at Santa Fe High School, thought it sounded like fun and on a whim, decided to audition as well. It worked out well, because Tietge won the role of Willy Wonka himself in the production, directed in-house by University of Houston-Clear Lake’s Director of Theater and Cultural Arts Alex Malone.

“I was auditioning for any part I could get,” Tietge said. “I thought I might be one of the Golden Ticket winners’ dads, or maybe the TV announcer. Definitely something smaller. I was really shocked when Alex told me he wanted me to be Wonka!”

Tietge is not a stereotypical Wonka. Identified widely as the character played by Gene Wilder in the 1971 hit film, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” Wonka is a small man full of magic and mischief. At 6’6 with red hair, Malone said Tietge possesses some real stage presence. “Getting me fitted for a costume is going to be interesting,” Tietge said.

“Gunnar’s warm, inviting voice is a nice juxtaposition to some of the darker aspects of this show,” Malone said. “His sheer height will be an interesting visual against the oompa-loompas, who are children aged 4-14.”

Dahl named his story’s main character Willy Wonka to convey his unpredictable, slightly off-the-wall behavior. “I tend to be the quirky one, similar to Wonka,” Tietge said. “I feel I can relate to him in the sense that I have been slowly trying to build up my own career as a music educator.”

“The Bay Area Houston Ballet and Theatre and Bayou Theater are co-producing this musical with the Bayou Theater,” Malone said. “BAHBT have a long and wonderful history of producing musicals in this area. Coupled with the Bayou Theater’s recent growth and expansion, we are creating an exciting musical partnership for this first production the Bayou Theater has attempted in many years.”

“This is the first time we’ve partnered with the Bayou Theater and I think it’s a win-win for everyone,” said Jill Reason, executive director of the Bay Area Houston Ballet and Theatre. “We are so excited about the resources made available to us by Alex Malone and the theater. We get an overwhelmingly positive response from the community when we do musicals, so I think this show will really be a treat.”"

Performances of "Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka" will run on selected dates from April 4-14 at UHCL Bayou Theater. Get tickets and more information at