There is probably no actor closer associated with producers Craigs Zadan, who died suddenly last week at age 69, and Neil Meron than Kristin Chenoweth who has been the duo’s muse for two decades. She starred in one of Zadan and Meron’s early TV musicals, the 1999 Annie, which aired under ABC’s The Wonderful World of Disney banner and marked Chenoweth’s first major TV role. The Music Man, also on ABC, followed in 2003. The trio then took their creative relationship to Broadway with the 2010 revival of Promises, Promises, which starred Chenoweth and was produced by Zadan and Meron.
Chenoweth was on hand for the Zadan and Meron’s debut as Oscar producers in 2013, teaming up with host Seth MacFarlane for a memorable closing musical number. She also became part of the duo’s current live musical franchise for NBC, toplining the 2016 Hairspray Live!
The Tony and Emmy-winning actress was one of the first to post a tribute to Zadan following his unexpected death from complications after shoulder surgery last week. She has now shared with Deadline more memories of her frequent collaborator and good friend Craig Zadan. (you can also hear her belt out that high note from Hairspray Live! in a clip below.)
Very few times in this business do we have a person who helps guide our career and always speak the Truth. Craig Zadan had the most wonderful laugh. But he was very serious about his projects no matter what the genre, always wanting every moment to be honest.
Bringing musicals back on television will be one of his bigger legacies, but to me, he was just my big brother. Always there with a smile, encouragement, and love.
The last musical we did was Hairspray Live for NBC, and I remember when I tossed the baton and sang the high note at the end of “Miss Baltimore Crabs” as Velma Von Tussel, he just did his Craig laugh and said, “That’s my girl.”
Every day I hear his voice inside my head. He’ll always be there to give me advice. I will miss him, but I know he’s always with me.