Vanessa Hudgens more than proved that she was worthy of the leading role in Ms. Darbus' East High musical when she stole the show as Maureen Johnson in Jan. 27's Rent: Live. If you wrote off Hudgens years ago for her tepid High School Musical performance, her belting vocals and self-assured stance as the bisexual artist saved otherwise lackluster rehearsal footage that unexpectedly aired instead of a live show. Hudgens clearly got her head in the game for the role, but her experience as Gabriella Montez might have benefited her more than you'd think. Vanessa Hudgens' Rent: Live and High School Musical crossover is killing the internet right now, and it turns out Maureen has a touch of Gabriella in her.
ICYMI, Rent: Live star Brennin Hunt sustained an injury during a dress rehearsal the day before the show's Jan. 27 broadcast. It turns out that he broke his foot, leading to producers' decision to air the taped rehearsal up until the live 15-minute-long finale, which included Hunt with a cast on his foot and cameos from the musical's original Broadway cast. The release of the rehearsal meant the public saw some noticeably restrained performances, but even in this pre-taped footage, Hudgens quickly established herself as a powerhouse among the cast. A veteran of both Rent and the live TV musical format, Hudgens, in the role Idina Menzel originated, delivered vocals that Troy Bolton definitely couldn't have kept up with in high school.
Receiving particular attention for her renditions of "Take Me or Leave Me" and "Over the Moon," Hudgens sprawled on the floor during the latter was definitely reminiscent of a kid on a Disney Channel sitcom trying to revive a talent show performance. Before her cow-themed costume distracted you, you might have noticed that one of her long notes in "Over the Moon" was practically identical to a moment in High School Musical 3's "Now or Never." Remember when Troy paused during the big basketball game to connect with Gabriella in the crowd?
One Twitter user definitely does, and she released a quick video of Hudgens as Maureen seguing into her delivering the same note as Gabriella in the 2008 movie.
Maybe high school really was meant to last forever?
Live-tweeting fans wondered where Hudgens' Rent: Live vocals were during the High School Musical films, but based on this clip, it looks like she had these singing chops all along. Fans are squealing over the clip, but raves about her performance are still popping up on Twitter days after the show.
Any theater nerds with equally heartfelt ties to Rent and High School Musical are definitely proud of Hudgens in this moment. We may have spent more than a decade associating Hudgens' personality with the shy, quiet Gabriella, but the actor appears to have a deeper connection to Maureen. Prior to the broadcast of Rent: Live, she told Playbill:
[Maureen] is a drama queen, loud and proud and loves being the center of attention. And she is outspoken and unapologetic for it. I grew up doing musical theater and part of the reason I loved it was, of course, the shows and the music, but it was really about being on the stage and being the center of attention. We fit hand-in-hand nicely.
Fingers crossed that the Broadway gods bless us with even more live TV musical appearances from Hudgens. Those East High Wildcats know how to make their starts in a show truly something new.