Alvin Ing, Pioneering Asian American Broadway Actor, Dies at 89

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Alvin Ing, a pioneering Asian American Broadway actor who appeared in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Flower Drum Song” and Stephen Sondheim’s “Pacific Overtures,” died at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, Calif. on July 31. He was 89.

Ing’s representatives said that the fully-vaccinated actor was diagnosed with pneumonia in mid-July and then contracted COVID-19 a few days later. After battling the illness for two weeks, Ing died due to cardiac arrest.

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Born in Honolulu, Ing studied music at the University of Hawaii before moving to New York at age 25 to pursue an acting career. He landed various roles in Off Broadway shows and touring productions before making his Broadway debut in the 1976 original production of Sondheim’s “Pacific Overtures.” He reprised the performance almost 30 years later, when the musical was revived on Broadway in 2004. Ing also starred in the 2002 revival of “Flower Drum Song,” in which he performed the song “My Best Love.”

Ing’s talent also extended to television, where he had a recurring role on daytime drama “The Doctors” from 1974 to 1975. He also appeared on “Fantasy Island,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “Benson,” “Dallas,” “Falcon Crest,” “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and the reboot of “Hawaii Five-0.” Ing also appeared in films including “Stir Crazy,” “Smilla’s Sense of Snow,” 2021’s “Bad Detectives” and 2014’s “The Gambler” alongside Mark Wahlberg and Jessica Lange.

An active member of the Theater for Asian American Performing Artists, Ing was praised by colleagues for being a longtime advocate for the AAPI community in the entertainment industry.

BD Wong, who starred alongside Ing in “Pacific Overtures” said of the late actor, “Since forever, the reputation of Asian American actors has been defiled by a well known, but rarely spoken, sentiment: we will never be as good as our colleagues of other colors, never mind better. One day Alvin Ing sang for me, and I finally knew, for keeps, that anyone who thought this was pitifully mistaken.”

Ing’s “Flower Drum Song” co-star Lea Salonga added, “His voice was glorious and filled the room with its flawless sound, but beyond that, his sound was steeped in joy. Alvin was a joyful presence to be around at every rehearsal and performance. Beyond that his voice always sounded incredible, he brought a sweetness and kindness everywhere and to everyone. There was always a gentleness to him, but also a sassy sense of humor. He was a gift to everybody that got to work with him, and I’m only extremely blessed to have had that opportunity.”

An online memorial titled “Old Friends” will take place on Aug. 15 for close friends and family, and a concert titled “A Celebration of Alvin Ing’s Life and Legacy” is being planned for New York and will be streamed online. Abingdon Theatre Company is accepting donations for Alvin Ing’s New York Memorial Celebration and the newly created Alvin Ing Scholarship Fund.

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