Alvin Ing, the Broadway actor best known for his work in Pacific Overtures and Flower Drum Song, has died. He was 89.
The actor died on Saturday at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, California, of breakthrough COVID-19 complications, according to his representatives.
“Honolulu native and American Army veteran with a gift to serve, he felt a duty to himself and his fellow citizens to be fully vaccinated,” reads a statement from his reps provided to PEOPLE. “Although he was fully vaccinated, Ing was first diagnosed with pneumonia in mid-July then confirmed to have COVID-19 a few days later. After two weeks of battling COVID-19, Ing passed away due to cardiac arrest.”
Breakthrough cases — COVID-19 infections that occur in people who have been fully vaccinated against the virus — are rare, but possible and expected, as the vaccines are not 100% effective in preventing infections. Still, vaccinated people who test positive will likely be asymptomatic or experience a far milder illness than if they were not vaccinated. The majority of deaths from COVID-19, around 98 to 99%, are in unvaccinated people.
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Born in Honolulu, Ing studied music at the University of Hawaii before moving to New York City to pursue a career in theater.
After appearing in several Off-Broadway shows, Ing made his debut on the Great White Way as Shogun’s mother in the 1976 original production of Pacific Overtures — a part he would reprise when the musical was revived in 2004.
He also played Wang Ta in numerous tours and productions of Flower Drum Song and starred its 2002 Broadway revival with a revised book by David Henry Hwang.
In addition to theater, Ing had recurring roles on the soap operas The Doctors and Falcon Crest and numerous guest starring roles on Benson, How the West Was Won, Charlie’s Angels, Quincy, M.E., All-American Girl, Dallas, Dynasty, Fantasy Island, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and the Hawaii Five-0 revival.
His film credits include The Gambler, The Final Cutdown, Stir Crazy, Troop Beverly Hills, and Smilla’s Sens of Snow.
Ing was also a staunch advocate for the AAPI community in the entertainment industry and an active member of the Theater for Asian American Performing Artists.
“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,” B.D. Wong, who appeared alongside Ing in the revival of Pacific Overtures, said in a statement. “One day Alvin Ing sang for me, and I finally knew, for keeps, that anyone who thought this was pitifully mistaken.”
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In the wake of Ing’s death, his Flower Drum Song family have also paid tribute to the star.
“His voice was glorious and filled the room with its flawless sound, but beyond that, his sound was steeped in joy, “Lea Salonga, who starred in Broadway’s Flower Drum Song, said in a statement. “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.”
“Alvin Ing was a consummate theater person, a pioneer and my friend. Most people would say Alvin was sweet, and he was. The Alvin I knew and loved was mischievous, with a wicked sense of humor,” Ing’s costar Jodi Long shared. “I shall truly miss Alvin, for his theater knowledge, for his New Year’s vegetarian Jai, for all the songs he sang and most importantly all the laughs.”
In a statement of his own, Hwang called Ing the “beloved link between generations of AAPI performers who had found employment and sometimes even stardom during a time when other opportunities were virtually non-existent.”
“As an AAPI actor of his generation, Alvin faced terrible racist exclusion, yet survived as an artist with his joy and talent (not to mention, his high notes) intact,” Hwang said.
Robert Longbottom, the director of Broadway’s Flower Drum Song, added: “He was our spiritual guide throughout and I adored working with him every day of that long process.”
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