NEW YORK – Talented performer Louis Panayiotou has built an impressive career beginning at a young age in his native Cyprus and now delighting audiences in New York. His moving performance was enthusiastically received by the full house on June 18 at the Queens Theater in the Park in the theatrical concert In Foreign Land presented by the Pancyprian Association of America Cultural Division under the musical direction of Phyto Stratis, who is also the Artistic Director of Pancyprian. Panayiotou spoke with The National Herald about his life and career.
In Foreign Land follows the journey of immigrant “Louis” (performed by Panayiotou) from his emotional farewell to his loved ones and then continues in the transition to the land of hopes and dreams. A journey familiar to all immigrants, it brought tears to the eyes of audience members who joined in the singing of classic Greek songs by Mikis Theodorakis, Manos Hadjidakis, Manos Loizos, and Stavros Xarhakos.
The final number, “I diki mou i Patrida” (My homeland) by Cypriot composer Marios Tokas “is our anthem,” said Stratis at the end of the concert, noting that the song “speaks of our Country Cyprus. Never forgetting our roots and culture is our responsibility and mission for the new generations of Greek Americans to know their heritage and history.”
Stratis said of Panayiotou, the lead performer in the show, “a very talented young man whom we are very grateful to have joined our organization this year.”
Panayiotou was born and raised in Nicosia, Cyprus. At age 6, he began classical piano lessons. A year later, the conductor of the folk orchestra of the National Television of Cyprus, Marios Meletiou was so impressed after hearing young Louis’ voice, he told his mother that one day he will become a successful singer. At age 11, Panayiotou began voice lessons, attending music theory classes, and performing as the lead singer in every school event, and in many local events collaborating with the national channel of Cyprus, CyBC (RIK). In 2005, he was cast as a guest star performer-singer for the kid’s TV show called Zoom Kids on Sigma TV in Cyprus, where he performed original songs written by the Cypriot composer Andreas Georgalis.
The year 2006 was a landmark one for Panayiotou, as he was voted in by the national jury and the audience to represent Cyprus at the biggest European song contest for kids known as Junior Eurovision.
Organized by the European Broadcasting Union annually since 2003, Junior Eurovision 2006 took place in Bucharest, Romania and it was broadcast by the Romanian Public Television Network, TVR. Panayiotou and Christina represented Cyprus with their original song “Agoria-Koritisa” (Boys-Girls) which took the 8th place, the best finish for Cyprus ever in the competition to date. That same year, he recorded the intro song for the Radio Broadcast show “Paidia Ston Aera” (Children on Air) which continues to run on CyBC Radio 3 and was part of a national jury to choose the ten finalists for Junior Eurovision 2007. After Junior Eurovision, Panayiotou was invited to perform at many prestigious events in Cyprus, including two performances at the Presidential Palace after a personal invitation from former First Lady Fotini Papadopoulos in support of the Radiomarathonios Foundation.
In 2008, Panayiotou received the honorary award from the mayor of Nicosia, for excellence in the arts and sports. In 2010, he participated in the singing reality TV show, Performance, organized by the national channel of Cyprus, where the winner would represent Cyprus at the Eurovision Song Contest 2011. Louis made it to the grand final and ended up in second place. The same year, he performed the role of Sky, in the musical Mamma Mia!, which won the first price in the national theatre school competitions organized by the Cyprus Theatre Organization (THOC).
After completing his two year military service in the Music Military Band of Cyprus as a singer and a trombone player, Panayiotou was accepted at Columbia College Chicago in the Musical Theatre Program. During his four academic years, he was cast in four of the main productions of the school; lead singer at the freshmen show case New Stew, ensemble and understudied Ali Hakim in the main stage production of Oklahoma!, Aldolpho in the main stage production of The Drowsy Chaperone, and the role of Carlos in the production of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. Panayiotou graduated with a BA, cum laude, in Musical Theatre and a GPA of 3.8 in 2017. During this period, he was invited by the directors of the Esckaz, a popular website for Eurovision fans, to be a member of the online jury voting for Junior Eurovision 2015. Right after college, Panayiotou was invited by multi award-winning Director-Choreographer Chet Walker (Fosse, Pippin revival Broadway) to participate in the Musical Theatre Dance Program at the School at Jacob’s Pillow in Beckett, MA. As one among the 24 students selected from around the world to participate in this three-week summer program in one of the most historic places for dance, he had the opportunity to perform on the Inside-Out Stage and in A Jazz Happening at the historic Ted Shawn Theatre.
In September 2017, Panayiotou moved to New York City and two months later made his solo debut in A Taste Of Him at the showcase bar The Dog House in Manhattan. The ninety-minute show included Panayiotou’s original songs performed for a full house. The same month, Panayiotou joined the soloists and chorus of The Pancyprian Choir Of New York, which is the cultural division of the Pancyprian Association of America. Since then, he has been performing as a soloist singer/actor with Pancyprian in concerts including Mitsias and Mpasis Live in October 2017 at the Bergen County Academies Auditorium in Hackensack, NJ and the Queens Theater in the Park, a Musical Tribute to the Cypriot composer Marios Tokas, the Polytexneio Theatrical Concert (November 2017), and Ton Athanaton (March 2018) a theatrical performance presented by the Federation of Cyprus at the Petros G. Patrides Cultural Center in Astoria, NY. Panayiotou played the lead character Afxendiou and received a great review in The National Herald newspaper.
Louis Panayiotou performing in the Pancyprian production of In Foreign Land at the Queens Theatre. Photo: Courtesy of Pancyprian
In December 2017, Panayiotou returned briefly to Cyprus to direct the show When We Were Young, where he also performed as a lead singer with a full band in a three-hour performance of pop songs from the 80’s through to today. The show was sold out for the two exclusive performances at the venue, Red Live! In January 2018, Panayiotou joined the work study program at Steps On Broadway and soon was asked to take part as a dancer with the dance group “Diversity of Dance” directed by Lauren Beyond which led to a performance at the Brooklyn Museum. Currently, Louis is performing as lead singer actor in the interactive musical comedy Ti Na Ftaiei Ti Na Ftaiei, written and directed by Phyto Stratis, and teaching piano and voice for Musika Music Lessons where he has been an official teacher since October 2017.
Panayiotou told TNH, “Currently, I am working on songwriting and music production of my original songs. I am collaborating with a producer in New York and recently, I released my first single, Ignite Your Smile, which is now available on all music platforms. With the beginning of the new season, I will start performing again with the cast of Ti Na Ftei, Ti Na Ftei, an immersive interactive musical and as a solo artist in various venues in the city of New York.”
A previous production by the Pancyprian Association Cultural Division, In Foreign Land, included the Pancyprian Choir, soloists and actors, directed by Phyto Stratis. Photo: Courtesy of Pancyprian