By Lynette Rice
August 21, 2018 at 08:36 PM EDT
Paul Drinkwater/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Craig Zadan, one of film and TV’s most prolific producers of musicals, has died. He was 69. Zadan’s death was announced Tuesday by NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt.

“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,” the statement said. “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.”

Under their Storyline Entertainment banner (recently renamed Zadan/Meron Productions), Zadan and Meron were responsible for big-screen versions of Chicago and Hairspray, as well as five live musicals for NBC that began with The Sound of Music and included this year’s Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert. They also were behind the cult hit Smash and produced three Oscar telecasts.

Zadan and Meron produced Gypsy starring Bette Midler for CBS, as well as a string of musicals for ABC’s Wonderful World of Disney, such as Cinderella, starring Brandy. In addition, they kept themselves busy on Broadway with revivals of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and Promises, Promises.

“Neil and I have been drawn to movies that fall into three distinct groups, One is musicals, which we took upon ourselves to try to bring back when nobody was doing musicals; the second is bio-pics,” Zadan told the Huffington Post. “When no one was doing bio-pics, we on TV, we did Judy Garland, the Beach Boys, the Reagans… a whole lot of biographical things; and the third… social and political films like Serving in Silence, What Makes a Family, and Wedding Wars, which are gay and lesbian stories. We’re always developing more, looking for more social/political stories.”

Business partners since the ’70s, 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.

Zadan, a native of Florida, was the author of Sondheim & Co., a definitive biography of Stephen Sondheim.

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