Alvin Ing, pioneering Asian American Broadway star known for ‘Flower Drum Song,’ dies at 89

Alvin Ing in 2014
Alvin Ing, shown in 2014, has died at 89. He was known for his roles in Broadway shows including “Pacific Overtures” and “Flower Drum Song,” as well as in films such as “The Gambler” and many TV shows.
(Charles Sykes / Invision)

Actor and singer Alvin Ing, known for roles on Broadway and on tour in “Pacific Overtures” and “Flower Drum Song” as well as in films such as “The Gambler,” has died at age 89.

Ing died Saturday at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank of complications from COVID-19, according to his representatives at Mosaic PR.

“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,” said Lea Salonga, who starred in “Flower Drum Song” in 2002 and 2003.


Ing is believed to have performed in more productions of “Flower Drum Song” in the role of Wang Ta than any other actor.

He also portrayed the Shogun’s mother in the original Broadway production of “Pacific Overtures” in 1976, and reprised the role 28 years later in the 2004 revival. “Pacific Overtures” playwright John Weidman hailed Ing’s “wit, his kindness, his gentleness, and most of all his extraordinary generosity of spirit.”

His film credits included “The Final Cutdown,” “Stir Crazy,” “Troop Beverly Hills” and “Smilla’s Sense of Snow.” On TV, he had recurring roles on the soap operas “The Doctors” and “Falcon Crest” and guest spots on “Benson,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “Quincy, M.E.,” “Fantasy Island,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and “Hawaii Five-0.”

Ing was a Honolulu native and a U.S. Army veteran who was an advocate for the Asian American Pacific Islander community in the entertainment industry, including being an active member of the American Asian Performing Arts Theatre. He had a master’s in music education from Columbia.

Broadway star Telly Leung, who performed alongside Ing, said in a tweet that “a generation of Asian performers would not be where [they] are today without his leadership and courage.”

Actor’s Equity Assn. tweeted in his honor: “Not only was Alvin Ing a trailblazer, but he was also an inspiration to a generation of performers. He will be missed.”