Make us your home page

Steinbrenner High siblings head to 'Oklahoma!'

LUTZ — Ryan Santello, 17, traded in his figure skates for cowboy boots to take on the role of Curley in the Patel Conservatory's presentation of Oklahoma!, which opened Thursday at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts.

And his sister, Victoria Santello, 15, will join him as part of the dance ensemble.

Though they love theater now, the ice was the first stage for the Santello siblings, who live in Lutz. They were attending a birthday party at an ice rink 11 years ago when they discovered their hidden skating talent.

"We were just like, 'Wow,' we are really good at this,' " Ryan said with a wide smile.

Though they took ballet classes to improve their skating, it wasn't until Ryan was 14 and Victoria was 12 that they became interested in the world of drama. Orlando residents at the time, Ryan auditioned for a role in The Pirates of Penzance at a theater in downtown Clermont.

"I realized, I like this," he said of his experience.

Victoria also participated, working backstage.

"I watched him and was like, 'I want to do this,' " she recalls.

When the family moved to Tampa in 2011, their mother, Stacey Santello, did some research online and found that the Patel Conservatory was holding auditions for its summer production of Seussical the Musical. They immediately felt at home there.

"It's like a family environment. Everyone is so outgoing so you make friends easily," Victoria said. "There are some of your best friends here."

The Santellos were also impressed by the amount of experience everyone had, specifically the Oklahoma! cast.

"You get to work with so many experienced people . . . Sean Paris is amazing. He was in New York and on Broadway, and a casting director," Ryan said of the show's director.

Like the Santellos, Paris entered the theater world on a whim.

He was a student at the University of Florida when Melissa Hart, a Tony-nominated professor there, suggested he take her musical theater class.

"I didn't recognize my talent, but she did," Paris said. "She got me moving."

The pair met again in New York City when Hart happened to audition for a show Paris was casting.

Paris moved back to Tampa in 2012 to be closer to his family, and teaches at Blake High School, along with his work at the Patel Conservatory.

Paris is also working on a show for Blake High School and the upcoming Patel Conservatory performance of Hairspray. But it's Oklahoma! that is posing a new challenge.

"We have 55 to 60 kids on the stage, all at once, and they all have to be telling a story," he said.

Since Oklahoma! was produced in the 1940s and acts as a foundation for all other musicals, Paris added his own flair by making the villain and the dream ballet scene darker.

As for the lead role, Ryan was not on Paris' radar at first.

"(But) Ryan fit the picture, the kind of man I was looking for," Paris said. "I was looking for someone with a real legitimate voice, and he has that."

Ryan was surprised to get the lead.

"I came in open-minded, just auditioned and would have been happy with any role I was given," he said.

When Ryan came to callbacks, he gave it his all and was thrilled with the outcome.

"I think people that know him will be really surprised with his performance, and I think he'll be surprised too," Paris said, smiling.

Ryan has a come a long way since his first role as a pirate in The Pirates of Penzance. This show marks the most lines he has ever had. Luckily, he has his sister for support.

"You have someone to remember what you don't," he said of his counterpart.

The two spend a lot of time together, in chorus at Steinbrenner High School, practicing at the Patel Conservatory and skating on Saturday nights. At home, they practice for Oklahoma! by moving the couches out of their living room, or on their front lawn. Their passion for theater even moves them to sing down the school hallways, and at Publix.

"It helps our bond as siblings," Victoria said. "We never fight."

And as if their schedules aren't busy enough, Ryan, a junior, is also working on a video audition for the prestigious Juilliard School in New York.

"It's good to be busy," he said.

. If you go


The Patel Conservatory at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N MacInnes Place, presents Oklahoma! today, Saturday and Sunday and Thursday-May 10 in the TECO Theater. Performances are at 7 p.m. today and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday, 7 p.m. Thursday and May 9 and 3 and 7 p.m. May 10. Tickets cost $14 to $16 and may be purchased by phone at (813) 229-7827, in person at the Straz ticket office or online at

Steinbrenner High siblings head to 'Oklahoma!' 04/30/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 30, 2014 6:42pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Craft beer of the week: Electric Chair Sour Shandy, Angry Chair Brewing

    Bars & Spirits

    Traditionally, a shandy, like its German cousin the radler, is a simple combination of beer and a soft drink, such as a citrus-flavored soda or fresh juice. These drinks are low-alcohol, fruity and highly refreshing, making them ideal candidates for summertime sipping.

    Justin Grant/Special to tbt*
  2. Can you feel the heat? Indie rock gifts dynamite playlist for summer

    Music & Concerts

    For most of June, there was precisely one song by a rock band in the top half of Billboard's Hot 100: Believer by Imagine Dragons. (If you're feeling generous, you could count Something Just Like This by the Chainsmokers and Coldplay, but c'mon.) On the list of America's hottest singles, there were more …

    Arcade Fire performs at the Panorama music festival on Randall Island in New York.
  3. Bar review: Sample whiskey, vodka, rum, absinthe and more at Fish Hawk Spirits in Ybor

    Bars & Spirits

    While craft brewing has firmly entrenched itself in local drinking culture, craft distilling is still a very niche market. Part of this is due to outdated and arguably unfair distilling laws, and part of it is because successful distilling can often be a lot tougher and more time-consuming than brewing up a few batches …

    For $10, you can sample four of Fish Hawk Spirits’ fruit-infused vodkas, as well as its molasses-based rums, tangerine brandy and more. Old whiskey barrels lend a rustic vibe to the Ybor shop.
  4. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for June 30


    Into the Woods: St. Petersburg Opera presents Stephen Sondheim's musical featuring a cast of storybook characters, including Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel. 7:30 p.m., Palladium Theater, 253 Fifth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. $22-$67. (727) 823-2040.

    The cast of the St. Petersburg Opera's production of Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods includes (from left) Caitlin Mesiano as Little Red Riding Hood, Caroline Tye as the Baker's Wife and Clayton Brown as the Baker. Photo by Jim Swallow.
  5. What's Dar Williams reading?



    Dar Williams

    For our Independence Day Nightstand, we caught up with Williams, a singer-songwriter (The Christians and the Pagans and The Beauty of the Rain) and author who is well-versed in the highways and byways of America. By phone recently, she shared how her newest …

    Dar Williams performs at the Opening Night Party of the 2016 Greenwich International Film Festival in Greenwich, Conn. Her newest book is “What I Found in a Thousand Small Towns.”