The Educational Theatre Foundation honored late producer Craig Zadan and his producing partner Neil Meron at their annual Thespians Go Hollywood gala in Los Angeles last night, which raised more than $200,000 in Zadan's memory for the theatre education non-profit.
Zadan and Meron were honored as the inaugural recipients of ETF's Theatre for Life Award, recognizing "imaginative transformation of live theatre in film, television, and associated media." The producing team is largely credited with bringing musical theatre back to film and TV, producing TV movie adaptations of Gypsy, Cinderella, Annie, and The Music Man, the musical TV series Smash, and big screen movie musicals Chicago and Hairspray. Zadan and Meron were also responsible for the rebirth of live musicals on TV, producing live productions of The Sound of Music, Peter Pan, The Wiz, Hairspray, and Jesus Christ Superstar for NBC.
"Craig was a selfless friend, a man of great character, an advocate for what is right and true, and a great story teller," shared Renée Zellwegger, a Golden Globe winner and Academy Award nominee for her performance in Zadan and Meron's Chicago before presenting the award. "Craig and Neil's work has shaped history and changed lives."
Meron remembered his late producing partner when accepting the award. "I know Craig treasured the knowledge that NBC's live musicals were family-viewing affairs in many households. To receive an award that celebrates the joy we were able to share with others through musical theatre is deeply meaningful to me. Thank you."
On hand to share anecdotes and musical performances were Kristin Chenoweth singing "'Till There Was You"; Sean Hayes, who sang "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" with Chenoweth; Harry Connick, Jr., singing "When I Get My Name in Lights"; Darren Criss, singing "I Believe in You"; Megan Hilty, singing "Don't Forget Me/Let Me Be Your Star"; Jennifer Hudson, singing "I Know Where I've Been"; Audra McDonald, singing "Climb Ev'ry Mountain"; Bernadette Peters, singing "With So Little to Be Sure Of"; and Amber Riley singing "Home"; along with Robert Greenblatt, Kenny Leon, Marc Shaiman, Debra Messing, John Stamos, and Nia Vardalos.
Los Angeles-area theatre students were also on hand to perform Hairspray's "You Can't Stop the Beat."
The money raised benefits the Educational Theatre Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Educational Theatre Association. ETF supports excellence in theatre education nationwide and works to expand access to school theatre programs for every child, by creating sustainable musical theatre programs where there are none, providing teaching and performance resources in under-resourced schools through a need-based grant program, and nurturing the next generation of theatre teachers and artists through need-based individual grants.
Donations in Zadan's memory are still being accepted by ETF's Craig Zadan Memorial Fund. For more information, visit EducationalTheatreFoundation.com/Craig-Zadan/.