Craig Zadan Dies: ‘Chicago’ Producer Who Led Oscar Telecasts & Live TV Musicals Was 69

By Nellie Andreeva, Denise Petski

Craig Zadan
Patrick Randak/NBC

Craig Zadan, a prolific producer of movies, television and Broadway musicals, including the Oscar-winning Chicago, Gypsy, Annie, Cinderella, Steel Magnolias, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, five live musicals on NBC and three Oscar telecasts on ABC, has died unexpectedly. He 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 Robert Greenblatt, NBC Entertainment Chairman. “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 started his producing career with breakout music-fueled feature Footloose in 1984. Teaming up with longtime producing partner Meron, Zadan went on to deliver a slew of hits, straddling TV, film and stage. They shepherded high-profile TV movies at the genre’s peak during the 1990s and early 2000s and big features, most of them featuring music, which has been the duo’s trademark. That included telefilms/miniseries Gypsy starring Bette Midler, the hit Wonderful World of Disney musicals Annie and Cinderella, starring Whitney Houston, The Beach Boys: An American Family, Life With Judy Garland: Me & My Shadows, The Music Man, The Three Stooges and Brian’s Song. Their feature credits included the Best Picture Oscar-winning Chicago, the 2007 Hairspray remake and the 2011 Footloose remake.

Zadan and Meron, who were behind the ratings record-breaking 2012 Lifetime reimagining of Steel Magnolias and the 2017 telefilm Flint, about the toxic water crisis, brought live musicals back to TV. Collaborating with NBC’s Greenblatt, the duo produced the hugely successful The Sound of Music, which was followed by Peter Pan, The Wiz, Hairspray and this year’s Emmy-nominated Jesus Christ Superstar. They had been working on Hair as their next NBC live musical and on a live staging of A Few Good Men for next year and also had Bye Bye Birdie with Jennifer Lopez in the works.

Jim Smeal/Shutterstock

The duo produced three Oscar ceremonies, including the 2014 telecast hosted by Ellen DeGeneres that smashed all-time ratings records with 43.74 million viewers, an audience high that has yet to be suprassed.

On Broadway, Zadan and Meron produced together revivals of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and Promises, Promises.

Their TV series credits include Lifetime’s long-running dramedy Drop Dead Diva and NBC’s cult drama Smash.

And, after producing together under the Storyline Entertainment moniker for more than two decades, the duo just rebranded their company as Zadan/Meron Productions a couple of weeks ago.

As an author Zadan wrote Sondheim & Co., a definitive biography of Stephen Sondheim.

Zadan and Meron’s productions have earned a total of 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. Zadan himself earned 14 Emmy nominations.

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