The Broadway Across America tours that come to New Orleans vary wildly in quality, but Wicked has what they all should have: an accessible, poppy score, plenty of in-jokes, some superlative stagecraft and, of course, flying monkeys. Based on the Gregory Maguire novel, Wicked is a reimagining of The Wizard of Oz through the eyes of the good and bad witches — in their days as conjuring schoolgirls and long before Dorothy showed up. Here, Glinda the Good Witch is an insipid but popular cheerleader type; Ephalba (the Wicked Witch) is a smart, misunderstood outcast with green skin, a girl in the shadow of her prettier sister who nonetheless moons after the most handsome boy in school — in other words, the perfect stand-in for any insecure high school sophomore. ("We can't all travel by bubble," she snaps at Glinda.) Standby Merideth Kaye Clark turned out to be a Broadway-ready Ephalba (the many teen girls in the matinee audience went crazy for her), while the equally good Chandra Lee Schwartz was a legally blonde Glinda. (As the school's headmistress, Randy Danson was a dead ringer for Becky Allen.) The rest of the ensemble ranged from good to very good, but Wicked is carried on the shoulders of its witches — and even with a nearly three-hour running time, when Clark and Schwartz were singing, spellcasting and soaring, the show soared with them. Most seats for the three-week run are gone, but $25 rush tickets are sold by lottery at the theater two-and-a-half hours before every performance. It's worth the chance. (Wicked was originally scheduled as part of the 2005-2006 Broadway Across America series, which was eliminated after Hurricane Katrina; the other high-profile show from that lost season, The Lion King, will come to the Mahalia Jackson Theater in late 2011 or early 2012.) — Kevin Allman
Thru April 11
8 p.m. Tue.-Sat.; 7:30 p.m. Sun.; 2 p.m. Thu., Sat.-Sun.
Mahalia Jackson Theater, 801 N. Rampart St., 287-0351; www.mahaliajacksontheater.com
Tickets $30-$127.50. Limited number of rush tickets available for $25; call for details