Alvin Y. F. Ing, Star of Pacific Overtures and Its Revival, Dies at 89

Alvin Y. F. Ing, who starred in both the original 1976 Broadway production of Pacific Overtures and the musical’s Main Stem revival in 2004, passed away August 1 at the age of 89.

Also known as Alvin Ing, the trailblazing actor was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, May 26, 1932.

Alvin Y. F. Ing
Alvin Y. F. Ing

In 1960 Mr. Ing appeared in a tour of The World of Suzie Wong, which played engagements in both the U.S. and Toronto, and in the late ’60s he was part of productions of the Jerry Herman musical Mame at Caesar’s Palace and the Sacramento Music Circus.

Mr. Ing made his Broadway debut December 31, 1975, with the first preview of the aforementioned Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman musical Pacific Overtures, which officially opened January 11, 1976, at the Winter Garden Theatre. In the ’60s, Mr. Ing had headed TAAPA (Theater for Asian American Performing Artists), which, according to his Playbill bio, convinced producer-director Harold Prince to cast Pacific Overtures with an all-Asian company. He played several roles in the Tony-nominated musical—which follows Commodore Matthew Perry on his journey to Japan in 1853 on a U.S. mission to open up trade relations—including Shogun’s Mother, Observer, Merchant American, and Admiral.

Mr. Ing debuted the Sondheim song “Chrysanthemum Tea,” which he would also perform nearly 30 years later in the musical’s 2004 Broadway revival at Studio 54. About returning to the musical almost three decades after its debut, he told The New York Times in 2004, “I’m not sure what I brought to it 28 years ago, but now I can say that I bring lots of maturity and an ability to be devious without sounding devious. I think that is something you get with age: you get a little more clever about it.”

Mr. Ing had one other Broadway credit, the 2002 revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Flower Drum Song, playing the role of Chin opposite Tony winner Lea Salonga’s Mei-Li. It was not his first outing with the 1958 musical; he had previously starred in the musical’s national tour, eventually playing the role of Wang Ta more than any other actor.

Mr. Ing also appeared in numerous productions at East West Players, which has been a home for deeply authentic Asian American stories and creativity since 1965. His work at the Los Angeles venue included roles in Canton Jazz Club, Beijing Spring, Sweeney Todd, Follies, and Cabaret. His numerous screen credits included The Doctors, How the West Was Won, Fantasy Island, The Final Countdown, Quincy M. E., Charlie’s Angels, Dallas, Benson, Private Benjamin, Knot’s Landing, Moving Violations, Falcon Crest, Highway to Heaven, Hunter, Strange Luck, Smilla’s Sense of Snow, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Third Watch, Hawaii Five-0, Just Say When, and Bad Detectives.