With a dragon looming above the stage, flying monkeys and a good witch who comes and goes via a bubble, "Wicked" does a lot to enchant its younger audiences. On Thursday, before the show and during intermission, we spoke to some kids stepping onto this version of the yellow brick road into Oz for the first time.

• "I've been waiting for this for three years," said Karlee House, 11, from Phoenix, who was surprised Wednesday with "Wicked" tickets from her parents. "I'm excited about everything. ... Ever since when I found out we were coming yesterday, I was so shocked. It was awesome. ... My school did the 'Wizard of Oz,' and I was Glinda ... so she is my favorite character."

• "All of them are my favorite parts," said Mia Gonzalez, 9. "I like the music in 'Popular' and about how Glinda was kind of screaming and running, and I like about how Glinda is really nice."

"There's a part with the face talking that was cool," said Mia's brother, Cristian, 7. "I don't know (which character) is my favorite, but the giant talking head, I like it."

• "I was excited to see the witch," said Alexandra Holiman, 11. "I had seen YouTube videos of 'Popular' and 'Defying Gravity.' ... Mostly I heard it's about a mean girl and an unpopular girl."

"I even got a 'Wicked' pen!" Alexandra finished, waving her new pen.

• "The lights and the actors are my favorite part," said John Smith, 12, whose dad saw the musical last time it was in town and described it to John. "I would come see it again with my other three siblings."

•"Everything combined is just crazy," said Morgan Wilson, 14, after the final notes of "Defying Gravity" marked intermission. "I'm sweating right now from everything - the set, the costumes, the details. ... I was expecting it to be interesting, but this is 10 times better!"

"I think it's really cool," said Morgan's sister, Sophia, 8. "I like all the action. ... It's even better than what we saw on YouTube. ... I like the green witch the best because she knows how to control her powers."

Johanna Willett is a University of Arizona journalism student who is an apprentice at the Star. Contact her at starapprentice@azstarnet.com