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Alvin Ing, the Honolulu native who starred on Broadway in a revival of Flower Drum Song and appeared in two editions of Stephen Sondheim’s Pacific Overtures, has died. He was 89.
Ing died Saturday of cardiac arrest amid a battle with COVID-19 at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, a publicist announced. Though he had been fully vaccinated, he had been diagnosed with the virus two weeks earlier.
Ing also appeared in such films as The Final Countdown (1980), Stir Crazy (1980), Troop Beverly Hills (1989), Smilla’s Sense of Snow (1997) and The Gambler (2014).
On television, he had recurring roles on The Doctors and Falcon Crest and added guest spots on shows including Benson, Charlie’s Angels, Quincy, M.E., Dallas, Dynasty, Fantasy Island, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD and Hawaii Five-0.
An active member of the Theater for Asian American Performing Artists and an advocate for the AAPI community in the entertainment industry, Ing played several characters in the original Broadway production of Pacific Overtures in 1976, then returned for a 2004-05 revival.
In between, he starred as Chin in the 2002-03 revival of Flower Drum Song, featuring a book by David Henry Hwang.
“When I saw a rehearsal of the David Henry Hwang Flower Drum Song,” Ted Chapin, former president of the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, recalled in a statement, “I realized there was song cut in 1958 [from the original Broadway production] that would fit the new character that was written for Alvin in a scene that seemed to call out for a song.
“I passed it on to David and the director, [Robert Longbottom], and everyone agreed. Alvin was forever grateful and way too gracious to me.”
Added Flower Drum Song actress Lea Salonga: “Alvin was a joyful presence to be around at every rehearsal and performance. Beyond that, his voice always sounded incredible, and 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.”
Yuka Takara and Lainie Sakakura, two of his Flower Drum Song co-stars, are producing celebrations of his life. An online memorial titled “Old Friends” will take place Aug. 15 for close friends and family, and a live memorial concert, with a date to be announced, will take place in New York and be streamed online.
In lieu of flowers, the Abingdon Theatre Company is accepting donations for the concert and a new Alvin Ing Scholarship Fund. Click here to donate.
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