"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."
For her part, Taymor was gracious, saying the $70 million show was an attempt to do something different and difficult. "I'm delighted to be here tonight," she said. I'm very proud of it."
Taymor, the Tony Award-winning co-writer and director, was fired from "Spider-Man" after delays, accidents, poor audience reaction and money woes turned the musical into a punch line. The show was reworked from top to bottom and officially opened after a record-setting preview period.
Some critics couldn't wait to sink their teeth into the fresh Broadway offering. The Hollywood Reporter published its review online several hours before the 10 p.m. EDT embargo, prompting a furious response from producers.
"Everyone in this production has waited a very long time to get to this point, and it is incredibly disrespectful that certain members of the media won't wait a few more hours to post their reviews. We trust that no other outlets will stoop so low," it said.
Among the celebrities on hand for opening night were President Bill Clinton and daughter Chelsea, Matt Damon, Barbara Walters, 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'd learn about putting on a show on Broadway, 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."
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 - have 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 of the 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," adding "Here we go."
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.
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. "Finally we're turning on the light."
National Writer Jocelyn Noveck contributed to this report.