"I am not a speaker by any means, I did not expect to have to speak on tonight—but God has his way,” Hudson said. "We all know, today we lost a legend—Prince—who was a good friend of mine, who was dear to all of us.
"Not too long ago, he called me, while we were here, and he asked me to come out to this event because he was writing his book. And he told me, ‘You can bring your cast members along.’ And I took all my amazing people,” she said, gesturing to the ensemble as the audience applauded. “We all had an honor to be in his presence for one last time.
“Join us in honoring Prince,” she continued. “He said [that] his music will live on, and he will live through his music. So we want to keep him alive today with a song—but I want y’all to help us out.”
Hudson, lead actress Cynthia Erivo, and the cast proceeded in a moving rendition of Prince’s 1984 single, as the audience joined in. Hudson sang with the kind of soulful passion that saw her nominated for a Best Original Song Oscar for Dreamgirls (as well as winning Best Supporting Actress for that role)—and at 4:45 in the above video, she throws her jacket to the stage floor while delivering a powerful run of ad-libs. Watch the performance above.
Addendum: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Jennifer Hudson was an Oscar nominee for her performance in Dreamgirls. It has since been edited to reflect that she won an award for the role.