- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 14, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - Julie Taymor was welcomed back with open arms Tuesday to the musical from which she was fired just three months ago, receiving a standing ovation and kisses from cast members, collaborators Bono and The Edge and the creative team after the curtain fell on opening night.

“I just want to thank everybody, especially the cast and crew, the musicians and this creative team that I got to work with for a long time,” the Tony Award-winning director said from the stage.

Taymor got the biggest cheers of anyone on stage and chants of “Julie! Julie!” anticipated her emergence on the Foxwoods Theatre stage.

The Tony Award-winning co-writer and director was fired from the $70 million “Spider-Man” in March after delays, accidents, poor audience reaction and money woes turned the musical into a punch line.

Earlier in the night, Taymor, Bono and The Edge were all smiles as they posed for photos on the red carpet, a very public reconciliation from the original creators who had separated as the show’s problems mounted.

“We absolutely love Julie and always have. As artists, we’ve been very, very close. She poured her whole life into this project,” Bono said outside the Foxwoods Theatre. “Tonight she’s here to host it.”

The show, with music by the two members of U2, was reworked from top to bottom and officially opened after a record-setting preview period.

“We were trying to do something that’s never been done. And that’s very hard to do. And we were right in front of everybody,” Taymor said on the red carpet. “That’s difficult.”

Among the celebrities on hand for opening night were President Bill Clinton and daughter Chelsea, Matt Damon, Barbara Walters, Cindy Crawford, Jay-Z, Steve Martin, Liam Neeson, Vanessa Redgrave, Spike Lee, Andrew Lloyd Webber and John McEnroe.

“These guys have persevered,” McEnroe said, before using a tennis analogy. “It’s like a long five-setter but they’re still in it.”

The principal cast _ Reeve Carney as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Jennifer Damiano as Mary Jane Watson, T.V. Carpio as a spider-woman named Arachne, and Patrick Page as the Green Goblin _ have been with the production since the tortured beginning.

Asked what he had learned about putting on a Broadway show, lead producer Michael Cohl smiled. “It’s much more difficult than I ever expected,” he said. “God shows you: When you get cheeky, calm down. You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

Bono, too, said he felt humbled following in the footsteps of such iconic songwriters as Rodgers and Hammerstein, Rodgers and Hart and Irving Berlin. “We found out it’s harder than you think,” he said about writing a musical.

The show’s planned opening was initially set for Feb. 18, 2010, but financial issues forced producers to suspend work. A new opening was set for Dec. 21, but that was pushed back to Jan. 11, then again to Feb. 7 and then to March 15. “Spider-Man” has broken the record for the longest preview period in Broadway history.

Injuries to several cast members _ including a 35-foot fall by a stunt actor playing the web-slinger that left him with a skull fracture and cracked vertebrae _ marred the production, as well as the defection of a lead actress after she suffered a concussion.

Many theater critics grew impatient and their reviews that appeared in early February _ a violation of the established agreement by critics to wait for opening night to weigh in _ were mostly savage pans.

Producers finally intervened in March, firing Taymor and shutting down the show for four weeks to retool. Taymor was replaced by Philip William McKinley, who directed the Hugh Jackman musical “The Boy From Oz,” in 2003.

McKinley, former director for Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey, said the red carpet reminded him of the Big Top. Asked how he felt, McKinley said, “Relief as well as excitement.” He later posed with Taymor, Bono and The Edge.

Co-book writer Glenn Berger and newly hired playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who has written comic books and for the HBO series “Big Love,” toned down the story’s darker themes, and expanded the romantic angle between Peter Parker and Mary Jane.

Bono was determined to move forward. “Things got chaotic. It’s all in the past now,” he said. “It’s just one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever seen. Now you just forget about the past. I think it’s going to have a very, very bright future.”

Consistently strong weekly revenues are critical for the show to break even and to begin repaying investors. Last week the show earned $1.2 million _ a little more than 60 percent of its $1.9 million potential.

“We’ve heard all the news about it,” said author Janet Langhart, married to former Defense Secretary of Defense William Cohen, as they waited to enter the theater. “Finally we’re turning on the light.”


National Writer Jocelyn Noveck contributed to this report.





Mark Kennedy can be reached at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits



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