Alvin Ing Dies: Pioneering Asian-American Star Of Broadway’s ‘Flower Drum Song’, ‘Pacific Overtures’ Was 89

Alvin Ing, a pioneering Asian American actor who appeared on Broadway in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Flower Drum Song and Stephen Sondheim’s Pacific Overtures, and whose guest roles on numerous television series stretched from the 1970s until very recently, died July 31. He was 89.

“I mourn the loss of my friend,” wrote The King and I actor Alan Ariano on Twitter. “RIP Alvin Ing.”

A cause of death has not yet been disclosed.

Lea Salonga, who starred with Ing in the 2002 Broadway revival of Flower Drum Song, tweeted a photo of herself with Ing in rehearsal for the production, noting, “Never forgot that his were shoulders upon which all of us younger ones stood. Rest In Peace, dearest.”

Born in Honolulu, Ing studied music at the University of Hawaii before moving to New York at age 25, where he landed various roles Off Broadway and in touring stage productions prior to making his Broadway debut in the 1976 original production of the Stephen Sondheim-John Weidman musical Pacific Overtures. He would reprise his Pacific Overtures performance as Shogun’s Mother when the musical was revived on Broadway in 2004 with B.D. Wong.

Also on Broadway, Ing starred in the 2002 revival of Flower Drum Song, a production that featured a heavily revised book by David Henry Hwang. Ing, as Uncle Chin, performed a song – “My Best Love” – that had been left out of the original 1958 production. Ing also appeared in many other productions of the musical.

Other stage credits include Two Gentlemen of Verona, City of Angels, The World of Suzie Wong and the Dick Lee musical Sing to the Dawn.

Ing’s many television credits, beginning with a 1974-75 recurring stint on daytime drama The Doctors, would include the 1976 presentation of Pacific Overtures, Fantasy Island, Charlie’s Angels, Benson, Dallas, Falcon Crest, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the 2018 reboot of Hawaii Five-0. He appeared in such films as Stir Crazy (1980), Smilla’s Sense of Snow (1997), and this year’s Bad Detectives. In 2014, he played Mister Lee in The Gambler, starring Mark Wahlberg and Jessica Lange.

During the 1970s, Ing was involved with the Theater for Asian American Performing Artists, performing skits and protesting Asian American stereotypes.

In 2013, Ing auditioned for The X-Factor, announcing that he would celebrate with a nine-course dinner in Chinatown:

Ing also performed in cabaret over the decades, coming out publicly as gay at once such event in 2016 at the age of 84. In an interview from earlier this year, Ing explained that decision: “Lainie Sakakura, who put my act together, she convinced me that I was old enough not to be so reticent about it. In a way, it was very satisfying, but I really would like to do it for the gay community…Because, number one, I’m old, I’m Asian, and I’m gay, so maybe it would be, I don’t know, an inspiration for other people.”

Information about survivors was not immediately available.

I mourn the loss of my friend


May 26, 1932 – July 31, 2021

— Alan Ariano (@AlanAriano) August 1, 2021

This is an old photo of my friend Alvin Ing. The other pic was taken while we were in rehearsal for Flower Drum Song (with @thejosellana & @tellyleung). Never forgot that his were shoulders upon which all of us younger ones stood. Rest In Peace, dearest.

— Lea Salonga (@MsLeaSalonga) August 1, 2021

There was only one ALVIN ING, and a generation of Asian performers would not be where are today without his leadership and courage. Boy, I will miss you, my friend.

— Telly Leung (@tellyleung) August 2, 2021

We had Alvin Ing on #StarsInTheHouse a year ago. He starred in FLOWER DRUM SONG more than any other actor!! Rest in peace

— Seth Rudetsky he/him (@SethRudetsky) August 1, 2021

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