Nicky and The Angels

Nicky and The Angels
Nicky and The Angels

[NoHo Arts District, CA] – “Nicky and The Angels,” written and directed by Jillana Devine-Knickel, is a brand new musical, and what better place to premiere an 80s musical set in Los Angeles than at the Hollywood Fringe Festival 2023!? Teenagers, high school, big hair, bright colors, and a very seedy Hollywood…a perfect backdrop for musical drama!

Thankfully, the Hollywood Fringe Festival is back with a vengeance this year and this musical is the perfect way to begin your Fringe journey.

We wondered how this all began. So, we had a few questions for the lovely creators of the show, Jillana Devine-Knickel and composer/lyricist Ali Mandelbaum.

Congratulations on making it to the Hollywood Fringe! What inspired you to write this show?

JD-K: “Nicky and the Angels” began life as a one-act play called “Entrances” that I wrote and directed at Sarah Lawrence College in the mid-80s. I always felt it should be a musical for a couple of reasons. First, it takes place in a theatre and the characters are passionate about musical theatre. Second, the three leading characters are in their late teens, and there’s so much emotion going on at that age. That lends itself so well to a musical, where when an emotion is too powerful for speech, you sing. 

What was your process and how long did it take from concept to performance? 

JD-K: In the Spring of 2017, I started to think about the story again and I said to Ali, “let’s write a musical.” I’ve known her since she auditioned for a musical I co-wrote when we were students at Marlborough School in 1986, and I knew she was a gifted composer/lyricist who could write a song with the kind of richness and emotional depth that would suit these characters. I gave her an outline a month later and she immediately said it should be a one-act musical, which I had already thought. I started with an outline of the scenes, and we decided where each song should be. I then started writing the dialogue, fine tuning that as we went along. Ali and I had conversations about each song, one at a time, what they would feel like and what the characters were expressing. When she finished a song she would send me the lyrics and a recording of her playing and singing the song. We held a few staged readings before the pandemic, took a pause, and jumped back in last year.

AM: My writing process was different for “Nicky…” With a personal song, I usually sit at the piano and vamp and the music and lyrics happen concurrently. For this project, after speaking to Jillana, before creating a song, I muse on the vocabulary that would be appropriate and relevant. Then I create the lyric. next, I sing the lyric into voice recorder on my phone, just freeflow, with a spontaneous melody. after polishing the music and lyrics, I head over to the piano and try out different chords/arrangements, and make concrete choices. then I record on voice recorder, or on garage band (especially with a song that has a section with harmonies). i am a very slow writer, so writing the score (15 songs) took six years. 

Why is the Hollywood Fringe Festival a good place to launch the show?

The Fringe is an un-curated festival, so we did not have to have a committee or a producer approve the material, and we had complete artistic freedom. It was a perfect opportunity to put the show in front of a larger audience than we had recruited for our readings, with some marketing visibility already built in.

This is a big show and has a good-sized cast. How did you cast the show? 

Two of our six actors participated in the staged reading we held in December of 2022. One contacted us through a friend when she heard about the show. The other three were cast off of Backstage. 

What advice would you give aspiring musical theatre writers?

AM: Just do it. Instinct. Trust yourself and believe in your work. There are no wrong answers. 

JD-K: I can’t even try to put it any better than Ali and my North Star, Stephen Sondheim. “Anything you do, let it come from you. Then it will be new.”

I personally can’t wait to see this show! I love Fringe and all the beautiful diaspora of performers and stories and themes. “Nicky and The Angels” will be one of my first shows this year and I am so looking forward to sitting in a little theatre with people I have never met to share an hour or so experiencing something new made by people who love the theatre! Bliss!!!  It’s only on for three nights, so don’t dawdle!! Book your tickets now and look for the review on after the first show.



Saturday, June 3 at 8:00 P.M, Saturday, June 17 at 8:30 P.M. and Sunday, June 18 at 2:00 P.M.


The Broadwater 2nd Stage, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles

The cast of “Nicky and The Angels”

 (in alphabetical order):

Allison Belinkoff (“Sunday in the Park With George” at the Pasadena Playhouse), William Bennett (“Les Miserables” and “Grease” at the Judi Dench Theatre in Hull, UK), Colin Borden (“The Battlesong of Boudicca” and “Klingon Tamburlaine” at the Hollywood Fringe), Ben Larson (“Grease”and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ at the Granbury Theatre Company, ) Zachary Santolaya (“25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” at the Cosmo Theatre, “Sweeney Todd” at the Wally Theatre in Castle Rock, CO ) and Katie Silverman (‘PEN15,” “Grey Gardens” at the Ahmanson Theatre). The Musical Director is Richard Berent, who was Musical Director for “Merrily We Roll Along” at the Whitefire Theatre as well as other Sondheim musicals, including “Into The Woods,” “Sunday in the Park With George” and “Sweeney Todd.”

Nicky and The Angels