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Craig Zadan was looking forward to Thespians Go Hollywood, the Educational Theatre Foundation’s gala that was held on Sunday night. He and his producing partner Neil Meron were set to receive the inaugural Theater for Life Award, which supports theater programs in underserved schools. When Zadan unexpectedly died on Aug. 31 after complications of a shoulder replacement surgery, Meron suggested that the celebration become a tribute to Zadan.
And what a tribute it was. With Broadway figures Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman serving as musical directors, the evening was a star-studded trip down memory lane.
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“How do you say goodbye to a friend?” “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” actress Nia Vardalos asked the crowd at the Television Academy in Los Angeles. “How do you say goodbye to Crag Zadan? Well, we’re not going to. We’re going to sing some songs and tell some stories. We are going to honor and celebrate the life of our friend.”
The night began with Harry Connick, Jr. performing a rendition of “When I Get My Name in Lights,” a song he recorded with Peter Allen on the late entertainer’s last album.
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NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt recalled being a fan of Zadan’s 1974 book about Stephen Sondheim musicals, “Sondheim & Co.”
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“Years later, in 1990, after I landed a job at the Fox network I decided to track Craig down,” he said. “He and I and Neil quickly realized we all variations of the same person — lovers of theater, lovers of movies and lovers of musicals.”
Greenblatt, Zadan, and Meron would eventually work together in 2012 on NBC’s “Smash.” They also teamed on a number of live TV musicals that aired on the network.
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He added, “Of course, we had no idea how to do it, but we rolled up our sleeves and...
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