Craig Zadan, the prolific producer of musicals who, along with his producing partner Neil Meron, had success with big-screen versions of Chicago and Hairspray as well as the Oscars telecast, died of complications following shoulder replacement surgery, Robert Greenblatt, chairman NBC entertainment, confirmed in a statement. Zadan was 69.
“It is with profound sadness that I am announcing the passing of my dear friend and colleague Craig Zadan, who died of complications following shoulder replacement surgery,” said Greenblatt. “On behalf of his life partner, Elwood Hopkins, and his producing partner, Neil Meron, we are stunned that the man behind so many incredible film, theatre, and television productions — several of them joyous musicals — was taken away so suddenly. Craig’s distinguished career as a passionate and consummate producer is eclipsed only by his genuine love for the thousands of actors, directors, writers, musicians, designers, and technicians he worked with over the years. His absence will be felt in our hearts and throughout our business.”
Zadan and Meron were responsible for the 1993 TV film adaptation of Gypsy starring Bette Midler. Recently, the duo were behind NBC’s recent live musical franchise, launched by the The Sound Of Music Live! in 2013, starring country star Carrie Underwood, who they credited with its success as well as bringing the musical to a new generation. That was followed by Peter Pan, The Wiz and Hairspray. This past Easter, they produced a TV version of Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice’s Jesus Christ Superstar that cast Alice Cooper as King Herod and John Legend as Jesus.
They also produced the Academy Awards ceremony for three consecutive years, from 2013-2015, including when Ellen DeGeneres hosted in 2014, which drew the largest Oscar viewership in 15 years. Zadan and Meron had recently acquired the rights to Some Like It Hot, which they planned to develop into a new stage musical on Broadway and still had plans to bring a live version of A Few Good Men to NBC next year.
Business partners since the 1970s, Zadan and Meron earned six Academy Awards, five Golden Globes, 17 Emmy Awards, two Peabody Awards, a Grammy Award, six GLAAD Awards, four NAACP Image Awards, and two Tony Awards.