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It seems that a Broadway musical comes along to capture the imagination of every new generation. It doesn’t need to be the best musical of its time—indeed, it often isn’t.

During my teen years, I recall high school classmates tuned into Grease and then Cabaret (when the Bob Fosse film appeared), and then A Chorus Line. In college, we were obsessed with Ain’t Misbehavin’ and On the Twentieth Century before Evita! eclipsed everything. These shows provided anthems for our youthful joys and angst, and fantasy fodder for our every day lives.

When Sweeney Todd came along, it became the object of much merry collegiate parody—Ethel Merman was alive at the time, and I recall working up comedy material involving the Merm preparing for the national tour as Mrs. Lovett. We knew that Sweeney Todd was the superior musical and could recite every lyric, but still Evita! claimed our imaginations.

In more recent years, new generations have tuned in to Dreamgirls, or Phantom of the Opera, or Rent. But few musicals have inspired the youthful adoration that has been lavished upon Wicked, the untold story of the witches of Oz, a show that lost the Tony Award in 2004 to Avenue Q but continues to pack houses on Broadway and across the country.

Wicked returns to Shea’s on Wednesday and will stay through May 22. The unusually long run at Shea’s, where most shows stay for only a single week, is a testament to the star power of this spectacularly popular show.

Based on the novel by Gregory Maguire, the story takes the familiar characters from the 1939 MGM film, based on L. Frank Baum’s series of children’s books, and concocts a backstory. “Long before Dorothy drops in, two other girls meet in the land of Oz. One, born with emerald-green skin, is smart, fiery, and misunderstood. The other is beautiful, ambitious, and very popular. Wicked tells the story of their remarkable odyssey, how these two unlikely friends grow to become the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good.”

Wicked is huge in every way and comes with a distinguished Broadway pedigree. The music and lyrics are by Stephen Schwartz and the script is by Winnie Holzman. The direction is by Joe Mantello with choreography by Wayne Cilento.

Wicked will run at Shea’s Performing Art Center through May 22, and tickets are available through Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000, online at and, as well as at the Shea’s Ticket Office (650 Main Street).

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