South African actor and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Musical Theatre alum Pierre Marais has been cast in the national tour of the hit Disney Broadway musical Aladdin. Marais is the understudy for the titular role, the loveable street rat that first hit the screens in the House of Mouse’s 1992 animated classic.
The Cape Town-born actor graduated from NYFA’s Two-Year Musical Theatre Conservatory in 2012, and has been working steadily in theatre ever since. He has starred in Rock of Ages, directed by Tony nominee Kristin Hanggi, as well as West Side Story and Saturday Night Fever in Connecticut. Critics also praised his 2018 performance in the national tour of A Chorus Line, saying “Pierre Marais plays Paul with a bittersweet wistfulness; his acting commands one of the most powerful scenes in a show famous for its music and dance.”
Marais credits his parents, both trapeze artists who met in the circus, with instilling him with a love of performing. “They were both huge inspirations for me growing up,” he said in an interview with HuffPost. “I spent a lot of time watching them train and training beside them. Learning trampoline, sword fighting, tumbling and how to hit the same mark every time were all reasons why I was able to start with stunts at a young age.”
He began doing stunt work at age 16 with Home Alone 4: Taking Back the House, and racked up a number of film credits in South Africa like The Wake of Death 2 alongside Jean-Claude Van Damme and The Scorpion King: Rise of a Warrior. Yet despite his success, he knew that if he wanted to have a long-term career, he needed to come to America. “I knew that to sustain that kind of career, I would eventually have to move to the USA, where there is just simply more work.”
He credits his time at NYFA with helping him meet the right people to succeed in New York’s vibrant theatre world, saying “This honestly came as a result of living and studying in New York City….Most of the connections I made at college were in the theatre world.”
The New York Film Academy congratulates Pierre Marais on his continued success and looks forward to seeing his future roles!
You’d be hard pressed to find a New Yorker who doesn’t experience their fair share of frustration with the MTA, the corporation that runs the city’s sprawling and crowded transit system of trains and buses. Especially these days, as commuters deal with train construction, delays, and an impending apocalypse, while fares continue to increase (the MTA announced just this week their plan for yet another fare hike of 4%).
And every New Yorker deals with it in their own way. Some of us mutter under our breaths, while others aren’t afraid to scream and yell at the top of their lungs. Some of us weep silently when we finally get home, while others pray to themselves that they’ll actually get home.
But what most of us haven’t done, is sing a song about it. With Kristy’s Lament: Another Awful Day with the MTA, a new musical number performed by Broadway actress Kristy Cates, that’s no longer the case. And now that it has an accompanying music video produced by the Professional Conservatory of Musical Theatre at the New York Film Academy (PCMT at NYFA), the song is easily available for everyone to share, relate with, and sing along to.
Kristy’s Lament is very much based on a true story. “I have the worst train luck,” Cates tells NYFA, continuing, “I’m always stuck underground with no explanation, waiting for a train that never shows up, or on the car with the person about to puke. And I often share these wild stories on social media.”
After one particularly nasty commute for Cates, where one bizarre thing followed another as she tried to make her way home from her Broadway show, she recounted the entire nightmare on Facebook. Her story quickly gained traction and gained a lot of attention on social media. Typically, the story would end there, but not for Cates.
After seeing her commute from hell, lyricist Chris Giordano was inspired to adapt the tale into song, writing lyrics for a number that step-by-step portrayed Cates’s disastrous trip. Soon, it was put to music by composer Ryan Edward Wise, and Kristy’s Lament was born. It wasn’t long after that that a music video was produced to accompany the track.
The video features Cates playing multiple roles — not just the tragic commuter narrating the song, but also a rude passenger carrying numerous bags, a stoner, and a homeless man, among others. It is mostly a stage production, filmed at NYFA’s 1st Floor Theatre, with gorgeous lighting direction and a minimal subway set. The video was also partially shot in an actual subway station, where the video opens and closes.
The video was produced by the PCMT at NYFA, where Kristy Cates also serves as Creative Director. The renowned musical theatre school prides itself on giving its students real world training that prepares them to achieve success in a competitive, empowering industry, creating an educational experience few other musical theatre schools can offer.
Aspiring performers develop their skills as triple threat performers by studying with faculty — like Kristy Cates — who have appeared in numerous Broadway and touring productions, top-rate regional theatre, opera, hit movie musicals, and television shows. NYFA’s musical theater alumni include llda Mason (On Your Feet), Pierre Marais (Aladdin), Christopher Viljoen (Les Misérables), and Kylan Ross (Straight Outta Oz).
Additionally, the PCMT at NYFA is able to use all of the resources shared by NYFA’s film school, cinematography school, and other departments. Using the Academy’s resources and state-of-the-art filmmaking equipment, its stage and its location in the heart of the New York City, and some of the Academy’s highly-talented staff — including director Jonathan Whittaker, editor Sean Robinson, Broadway veteran and choreographer Deidre Goodwin, and costume designer David Withrow — Kristy’s Lament was able to take advantage of high production values to really sell the humorous lyrics and support Cates’s powerful yet hysterical performance.
“One thing I love about working for NYFA,” Cates says, “is their willingness to explore new projects. As a result, our ability as a program to collaborate with up-and-coming composers and lyricists.” She adds, “It was wonderful to combine the expertise of our faculty, the passion of our alumni, the ingenuity of the composer and writer, and the generosity and support of the Film Academy.”
Cates is no stranger to high production values and show-stopping numbers. She is a member of AEA and SAG-AFTRA and has starred in Wicked (Broadway, First National Tour, Chicago) as Elphaba, as well as playing Miss Bassett in Finding Neverland (Broadway), Grandma Josephine in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Broadway), and has had roles in a handful of off-Broadway shows and many regional productions. Additionally, she performs as a professional voiceover artist.
The Professional Conservatory of Musical Theatre at the New York Film Academy is proud to have Kristy Cates as an original and current member of its faculty, and was equally as proud to produce Kristy’s Lament: Another Awful Day with the MTA with her. Next time you’re stressed and stuck on the subway, check it out and let yourself laugh a little — if the wifi is working down there, of course.
NYFA’s Musical Theatre production of “Merrily We Roll Along” was a huge success in more ways than one. After each performance, NYFA students and cast members collected money in the signature red buckets from Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, the nonprofit that’s been raising funds for people living with HIV and other life-threatening illnesses for nearly thirty years.
It has become a proud tradition for Broadway shows to address their audiences directly for this incredibly worthwhile cause. Since its inception, Broadway Cares has raised over $285 million—money that has been awarded as grants to social service organizations in all 50 states.
It is not uncommon to see our Broadway faculty with the red buckets on the Broadway stage raising money for Broadway Cares. And now our students are passing on this legacy.
NYFA’s “Merrily We Roll Along”
With the cast and crew of “Merrily We Roll Along” supporting this fundraising effort, the New York Film Academy became the very first conservatory to join Broadway with the red bucket appeal. In just one weekend of performances from our 100-seat theatre, our students and community were able to raise $1,050 for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS!
Needless to say, we are very proud of the Professional Conservatory of Musical Theatre program for their fantastic effort and we are thrilled to be aligned with the great work of Broadway Cares. We will continue these efforts with the red buckets during our main stage productions and proudly stand as the leading conservatory in the fight to help provide lifesaving medication, healthy meals, and emergency assistance to those who need them most.
NYFA’s “Merrily We Roll Along”
Director: Robert W. Schneider (Assistant Director to filmmaker Lonny Price on the acclaimed “Merrily We Roll Along”documentary “Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened.”)
Musical Director: Kevin David Thomas (2009 Broadway revival of “A Little Night Music.”)