Hudgens, 27, blew away viewers with her Betty Rizzo performance, taking the stage just hours after revealing that her father, Greg, lost his battle with cancer Saturday and that she would be doing the show “in his honor.”
Fox’s three-hour live telecast also ended on a poignant note, dedicating the show to the former High School Musical star’s father with a tribute at the end. “In loving memory of Greg Hudgens. June 22, 1950 – January 30, 2016,” it read.
Meanwhile, Butler, 24, took to Twitter to praise his girlfriend for her stellar performance while he watched from the audience.
“#GreaseLive is MIND-BLOWING! Constant chills @VanessaHudgens,” The Shannara Chronicles actor tweeted.
“WOW @VanessaHudgens singing ‘Worst Things’ had me in tears. Just brilliant #GreaseLive,” he wrote.
Indeed, the show – and particularly Hudgens – earned rave reviews on social media and was a ratings smash hit, averaging 12.2 million viewers from 7-10 p.m. ET, according to Nielsen – making it the best-rated live TV musical since NBC’s 2013 The Sound of Music Live!
Before her performance, Hudgens told PEOPLE about how much the original movie meant to her childhood.
“From the first time I saw it, I kind of just remember it being a part of my childhood,” she said. “I always knew all the songs. It’s just one of those musicals that you never get sick of because it’s so much fun. It feels like a big party and you get to be a part of it. when I got the call saying that they were interested in me as Rizzo I said, really? Because I’ve always thought of myself as Sandy and the more that I thought over it, the more that I realized that this was an awesome opportunity to play a character that I’ve never played before she’s so strong and such an amazing woman figure in musical theater history.”