The Baton Rouge Little Theater’s production of the musical “Crazy for You” went on as scheduled Saturday night despite the loss of a cast member in a fatal car accident that cut short Friday evening’s show.
Phillip Abington, 16, of Central, was killed in a two-vehicle crash on Greenwell Springs Road south of Hooper Road, a State Police spokesman said.
Upon learning of Abington’s death Friday night, Keith Dixon, managing director of the Little Theater, where Abington was set to make his debut, walked onstage shortly after the opening performance began, and escorted the actors off of the stage.
He told the audience, “We’ll be right back,” said Lee Caplan, director Jack Lampert’s sister, who was at the Friday night performance.
Several minutes later, Dixon and Lampert walked back onstage with Little Theater board president Jennifer Johnson, to announce that the rest of that night’s performance was being canceled because one of the actors had died in an automobile accident that afternoon.
“He did not make it,” Johnson told the audience.
A grief counselor soon arrived at the Little Theater to meet with cast members.
“We’re saddened by this tragic loss of life, and our thoughts and prayers are with Phillip’s family,” Dixon said.
On Saturday evening, cast members rallied to prepare for their next performance.
“The production will continue as scheduled,” Dixon said. “The cast wants to do the show in Phillip’s memory.”
“Each cast becomes a family,” Dixon said. “They rallied around each other. They want to do it not only for the audience; they want to do it for him.
“They know they were creating something with him that was wonderful and they can see it through,” Dixon said.
No decision to add a performance to make up for Friday night’s closed show has been made, Dixon said.
“He was a very talented and a very beloved part of the cast,” Dixon said just prior to Saturday evening’s performance. “We’re glad that the theater and the production could be a part of his life.”
Dixon said that while Abington had a long history of performing on stage, the role of Custus in “Crazy for You” was his first with the Little Theater.
Abington had attended Bethany Christian School since pre-school. He was a member of the Beta Club, Playmakers, Baton Rouge Little Theater, Central Community Theatre and served in Kidzone at Bethany World Prayer Center since he was 12 years old.
Abington was driving a 2001 Honda Civic on Will Avenue when he tried to turn left onto Greenwell Springs Road and pulled into the path of a 2005 Chevrolet pickup, Trooper Russell Graham II said.
The pickup, driven by James Watts III, 31, of Denham Springs, hit the passenger side of the Honda and ran off the road, Graham said.
Abington’s Honda was pushed off the road and came to rest in the ditch along the edge of the road, Graham said. The Chevrolet hit a tree and overturned, coming to rest on the driver’s door.
Abington died at the scene, Graham said. Watts suffered minor injuries and was taken to a hospital.
Investigators do not suspect alcohol to be a factor in the crash, however samples of both drivers’ blood were taken and have been submitted to the Louisiana State Police Crime Lab for analysis, Graham said.
Advocate staff writers Katie Kennedy and Pam Bordelon contributed to this story.