The troubled “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” wasn’t in the running for any Tony Awards on Sunday night — it doesn’t officially open on Broadway until Tuesday — but the oft-delayed musical turned out to be the elephant in the auditorium nonetheless.
With its spiraling multimillion-dollar budget, chaotic backstage dramas, the firing of its creative force Judy Taymor and a stream of serious cast and crew injuries, “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” was the running joke of the evening, sparking a torrent of punch lines that at times provoked a valiant but pained smile from Bono, the U2 singer who composed the score along with bandmate the Edge.
The ceremony wasted no time in skewering the musical starting with the opening production number, in which host Neil Patrick Harris sang about how the superhero was facing “death-defying budget overruns” as a pendulum with a costumed Spider-Man draped over a ticker with an escalating dollar figure swung across stage.
Later, Harris remarked that he had hoped to avoid “Spider-Man” jokes — they’re too easy, he said. So, in an effort to get them out of the way in one fell swoop, the host riffed nonstop to see how many jokes he could fire off in 30 seconds. One line suggested that “Spider Man: Turn Off the Dark” should be renamed “Spider Man: Turn Off the Lawsuits.”
An uncharacteristically chagrined Bono and the Edge finally appeared on stage during a segment that bounced between awkward comedy, apology, compliments to the Broadway community and their assurance that the musical, which has been in previews since November, would finally open this week.
“When I first saw the Tonys on our schedule, I just sort of assumed we had been nominated,” quipped Bono. “It appears we missed the deadline,” noted the Edge.
Before introducing a ballad from the show — which featured lead characters Peter Parker (Reeve Carney) and Mary Jane Watson (Jennifer Damiano) but no flying, costumes or any of the other flashy elements that have kept audiences coming in droves to previews — Bono delivered what might have been a message from the superhero musical’s entire cast and crew: “Thank you for your patience.”