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Zadan, Craig (b. 1949), and Neil Meron (b. 1955)  
 
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Prolific film, television, and stage producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron have created a diverse body of work, including a number of theatrical films and television features with glbtq themes.

Florida native Craig Zadan, born April 15, 1949 in Miami, became a New Yorker at the age of two, when his family moved to Brooklyn. As a youth he learned to appreciate the cultural opportunities of New York City, often going to Manhattan for Saturday matinees.

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Zadan's love of theater led him to become a commentator for New York magazine. He also contributed articles to such publications as After Dark.

His first work in production came in 1973, when he co-produced a Broadway tribute to Stephen Sondheim that featured Angela Lansbury and Alexis Smith. His love for Sondheim's work was also expressed in 1974, when he published the first edition of Sondheim and Company (revised 1986 and 1990), still recognized as one of the best books published on the composer and lyricist. The book has been lauded not only for its insights into the creative genius of Sondheim, but also for its details about the complex process of putting together a Broadway musical.

Meron, born in Brooklyn in 1955, said in a 2002 interview that he knew "in the womb" that he wanted a career in show business. "I was reading Variety as I was coming out," he quipped. Like Zadan, he had attended Broadway musicals as a child and was captivated by them.

When he was a senior at Brooklyn College, Meron invited Zadan, who had recently published Sondheim and Company, to speak in a lecture series there. Meron took advantage of the occasion to ask the author if he knew of anyone who might be able to help him get into musical theater. Zadan promptly invited the young man to become his assistant.

When Meron graduated in 1976, he and Zadan became professional partners, producing shows at the Ballroom in Soho that showcased the music of Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber, among others. Their success attracted the attention of Joseph Papp, who engaged them to work on shows at the Public Theater.

In the early 1980s both Zadan and Meron were employed by producer Peter Gruber. Zadan went to Hollywood while Meron remained in New York. In Hollywood, Zadan's first major production job was on Herbert Ross's film Footloose in 1984.

Zadan and Meron soon founded their own production company, Storyline Entertainment. During the 1990s they worked primarily on made-for-television movies rather than theatrical releases. One of their first great successes was a 1993 screen adaptation of the stage musical Gypsy. CBS executives agreed to make the picture provided that the producers could sign Bette Midler to star. Midler was initially reluctant, thinking that appearing in a television production might not be a good career move. Her fears were unfounded, however; Gypsy not only garnered extremely high audience ratings but also twelve Emmy Award nominations as well as a Golden Globe for Midler.

Other musicals that Zadan and Meron have brought to television are Cinderella (1997), which starred Whitney Houston and Brandy Norwood; Annie (1999), which featured Bernadette Peters, Alan Cumming, and Audra McDonald; and The Music Man (2003), with Matthew Broderick in the title role. All three productions, which appeared on The Wonderful World of Disney show, received critical praise and drew impressive audiences.

The team also produced Double Platinum (1999), an original television musical starring Diana Ross as a diva threatened by the professional success of her daughter, played by Brandy Norwood.

In addition to musicals, Zadan and Meron have produced a number of "biopics" for television, beginning with Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story (1995). Glenn Close portrayed the decorated Vietnam veteran who aspired to be the chief nurse of the National Guard but was true enough to herself to acknowledge her lesbianism in the course of a security-clearance investigation for a promotion. Her honesty led the military to seek to expel her despite her superlative performance.

Zadan and Meron also produced What Makes a Family (2001), a film for the Lifetime channel that related the story of a lesbian fighting for custody of the biological daughter of her deceased life partner. The movie starred Brooke Shields and Cherry Jones, the first openly lesbian actress to win a Tony Award, who appeared in flashbacks as the mother of the couple's child.

Controversy attended another Zadan and Meron production, The Reagans (2003). Among those protesting the airing of the mini-series were Ronald and Nancy Reagan's son Michael, Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie, and conservative activist Brent Bozell, who launched an initiative to deter corporate sponsors from supporting the show.

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Craig Zadan (left) and Neil Meron (YouTube video stills).
  
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