- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 15, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - The scene would have been hard to imagine three months ago, when Julie Taymor was pushed aside as director of “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” an unprecedentedly expensive production whose well-publicized troubles had already made it the butt of late-night jokes.

But there was Taymor returning Tuesday for the long-postponed opening night. She got a huge ovation and chants of “Julie, Julie” as she was welcomed onstage to kisses and hugs from Bono and the Edge _ collaborators who’d brought her into the project years ago, but later played a role in her ouster from the $70 million production.

“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 to a crowd sprinkled liberally with celebrities, including Bill Clinton and his daughter, Chelsea, Jay-Z, John McEnroe, Spike Lee, Vanessa Redgrave, Steve Martin and Matt Damon.

Earlier, just before showtime, Taymor told The Associated Press: “I’m delighted to be here. I’m excited. It’s opening night!”

Of course, there was no word on how she felt about the extensively retooled version that had taken shape following her ouster. The revamp dispensed with much of her vision but retained some of her most striking concepts.

But there was unity and affection on the stage of the Foxwoods Theatre, where the show had played a record-setting 183 previews before finally opening Tuesday. Bono even told Taymor she was looking “hot.” Then he thanked the audience for its patience.

“We had to save Spider-Man,” said the U2 singer, “because Spider-Man has to save New York.”

Afterward, at the stage door, cast members were ebullient and relieved.

“The biggest lesson I learned from this whole process is never to give up,” said Reeve Carney, who plays Peter Parker. “There were many opportunities along the way for many of us to quit, but none of us did.”

And as for Taymor’s return? “It was so great _ it was like having your parents reunite,” said Carney. He said he hadn’t been able yet to ask Taymor what she thought of the revised show; she did not appear with the cast at the stage door.

Thought the script was much simplified in the new version _ Taymor had co-written the original script with Glen Berger _ a number of her signature touches were clearly in evidence. The mythical character she’d introduced to the story, Arachne, was one of the first to appear, and a visual effect that has swaths of saffron silk being woven under her got applause all on its own.

T.V. Carpio, who plays Arachne, said Taymor’s return “was so emotional _ I was trying not to cry.” And Jennifer Damiano, who plays Mary Jane Watson, said it was “really special” to have the original director back.

The actors expressed delight that they’d finally reached a point where they simply had a show to perform every week, instead of endless rehearsals and constant changes. “I’m really looking forward to just performing the show every night,” said Damiano.

Added Patrick Page, who plays Norman Osborn and the villain he turns into, Green Goblin: “We invited everyone this time, so it’s, `Come to our party _ here’s our work,” said Page.

Earlier in the night, Taymor, Bono and The Edge were all smiles as they posed for photos on the red carpet.

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