Vanessa Hudgens performed in ‘Grease: Live!’ just hours after announcing her father had died of cancer. Taking on the iconic role of Rizzo among a star-studded cast, “in honor” of her father, her performance has been celebrated on social media, and critics are giving her much praise.

Vanessa Hudgens
Photo: Vanessa Hudgens
Credit: PR Photos

While there’s much to remember and to celebrate about the sprawling three-hour live television spectacle that was ‘Grease: Live!” on Fox, Vanessa Hudgens’ performance is a standout. It’s hard to imagine performing after the death of one’s father, let alone on live television with an international audience, that, as always is quick to react on social media.

But the 27-year-old former ‘High School Musical’ star did more than just pull it off. It was in the middle of Sunday afternoon that she broke the news, with a Tweet: I am so sad to say that last night my daddy, Greg passed away from stage 4 cancer. Thank you to everyone who kept him in your prayers.”

And in a second Tweet, she said, “Tonight, I do the show in his honor.”

It would have been a stunning performance under any circumstance. After all, taking on the iconic role of Rizzo which Stockard Channing brought to life so memorably — and indelibly — in the 1978 original would have been a challenge for any actress of any caliber at any time. But she was a standout as Rizzo, the leader of the Pink Ladies of the fictitious 1950s Rydell High School.

She was among the all-star cast of the much-buzzed about live musical, which included the two stars, Julianne Hough and Aaron Tveit reprising those classic characters, Sandy Olsson and Danny Zuko, portrayed in the 1978 movie by Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta. Also among the cast were Jessie J, Carly Rae Jepsen, Carlos PenaVega and Keke Palmer among others.

Perhaps the most buzzed-about moment was her performance of ‘There Are Worse Things I Could Do.’ Yes, a cliche to call it a showstopping, but it was that indeed. As we the audience knew the real-life circumstances, such lyrics as ‘To cry in front of you. That’s the worst thing I could do” took on another layer of poignancy.

Entertainment Weekly singled her out for praise saying in part, ““Even in the face of personal tragedy, Hudgens’ smile, her laugh and her delivery never faltered for even a moment, and she added some extra spark to the already dazzling display.” The New York Times said she “deserves some kind of prize for gutting through Rizzo.” And TV Line said her “Rizzo made Fox’s three-hour production faster, funnier, sweeter and more instantly iconic than it was possible to imagine.”

One of her co-stars, Mario Lopez, took to Twitter to express his admiration, saying, “Imagine if you had a day like @VanessaHudgens & performed like that. Wow. What a strong woman.My new hero #GreaseLive.'”

Yes, we knew that ‘Grease: Live!’ would be a memorable night and, while there was the sheer excitement of live television — and all that can go awry and all that can astound us. After all, there was the rain on outdoor sets, and just the sheer number of sets, indoor and outdoor; it was, logically a spectacle. But with a centerpiece, that brave, inspiring and brilliant performance, no one could have anticipated.

You can see video highlights of Vanessa Hudgens’ in ‘Grease: Live!’ below.