Performer(s) of the Week: Hairspray's Jennifer Hudson and Dove Cameron

Jennifer Hudson Dove Cameron

THE PERFORMERS | Jennifer Hudson and Dove Cameron

THE SHOW | Hairspray Live! (Dec. 7, 2016)

THE PERFORMANCE Live musicals are always a gamble, but when you’re pocketing a pair of queens, at least the odds are in your favor.

Though nearly everyone in the cast of NBC’s Hairspray Live! delivered captivating performances on Wednesday, TVLine is declaring this one a tie between Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson (as dynamite diva Motormouth Maybelle) and Disney Channel darling Dove Cameron (as pretty-racist-in-pink Amber Von Tussle).

Hudson didn’t appear until midway through the three-hour broadcast, but just like the plate of glazed ham in her hand, she had something truly delicious in store for the audience. Her Motormouth was consistent — grounded in her truth and maternal to a fault. When the mood was light, she made a joyful noise, but when skies turned gray, she too went dark, conveying an eerily relevant message through gut-wrenching, face-melting vocals.

Meanwhile, Cameron didn’t miss a beat, nailing every cutting remark, vocal run and dance step with such effortless precision that it forced everyone around her to step up their game. She also used her natural charisma to turn a traditionally loathsome villain into someone you never wanted to leave the stage. (Don’t get us wrong, we’re still firmly #TeamTracy, but we also wouldn’t have said no to an encore or two from Amber.)

Chandler Riggs Walking DeadHONORABLE MENTION | Ironic, isn’t it? Chandler Riggs has never seemed to us a stronger leading man than in the episode of The Walking Dead that knocked Carl all the way back from badass assassin to scared little boy. And to be clear, that’s not a diss of the 17-year-old actor’s tough-kid routine — it was impressive enough that we weren’t surprised it “scared the s—” out of Carl’s intended victim, Negan. But where Riggs really shone was in the moments when his character was at his most vulnerable — when, lip aquiver, he revealed to the villain what he hid beneath his bandages and, under extreme duress, performed the most heartbreaking rendition of “You Are My Sunshine” that we ever hope to hear. Definitely one to keep an, um, eye on.

unnamedHONORABLE MENTION | In Rectify‘s penultimate episode, Aden Young broke our hearts by revisiting Daniel’s past and then pondering his future. His recollection of being gang-raped in a prison shower was devastating, a six-minute monologue in which Daniel found distraction in the “blessed drops” falling from a nearby spigot. Just as heart-wrenching was his dismissal of the notion that Chloe stay put, letting him be “good, weird Uncle Dan” to her unborn child. “I’m mad for you. You’ve given me if not hope, hope for hope,” he initially responded. But a series of numbers — “19 years and eight months away” from true freedom, three hours of sleep a night, making “$314 a week” at a job he is lucky to have — formed his case against the playing of house. “It’s not romantic,” he observed. “It’s stark. It’s real,” as was Young’s impassioned performance.

Which performances knocked your socks off this week? Hit the comments!