Craig Zadan, Award-Winning Producer of Stage and Screen Musicals, Dies at 69

With producing partner Neil Meron, Zadan produced a ”Gypsy” TV musical starring Bette Midler and ”Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert”, among many other shows.

Craig Zadan has died at the age of 69.
Craig Zadan has died at the age of 69.
(© Patrick Randak/NBC)

Craig Zadan, half of the prolific producing duo responsible for revitalizing the genre of the live television musical, has died at the age of 69. The cause, NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt said in a statement, was "complications following shoulder replacement surgery."

Zadan's producing career began with the 1984 film Footloose. Later teaming up with Neil Meron, who became his longtime producing partner, the pair conquered nearly all media and kept musicals in the public consciousness in the process. Their television films of the 1990s and 2000s include Gypsy with Bette Midler, Cinderella with Brandy and Whitney Houston, Annie with Victor Garner and Kathy Bates, The Music Man with Matthew Broderick and Kristin Chenoweth, The Beach Boys: An American Family, and Life With Judy Garland: Me & My Shadows.

On the big screen they produced the Oscar-winning Chicago, as well as the remakes of Hairspray and Footloose. For television, they produced the short-lived series Smash, about the inner workings of Broadway musicals. The produced recent Broadway revivals of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and Promises, Promises. Zadan also directed the Broadway revue Up in One in 1979.

In recent years, Zadan and Meron managed to bring the dormant genre of live musicals back to the small screen. Working with Greenblatt and NBC, they produced live productions of The Sound of Music, Peter Pan, The Wiz, Hairspray, and the currently Emmy-nominated Jesus Christ Superstar. Hair was to be their next project, scheduled for 2019, with A Few Good Men and Bye Bye Birdie, as a vehicle for a Jennifer Lopez, in the works.

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

Zadan and Meron's productions 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.

"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, theater, and television productions — several of them joyous musicals — was taken away so suddenly," Greenblatt said in a statement. "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."