Francis Ruivivar, an actor-singer who made Broadway history as the first Asian-American performer to be cast in the role of The Engineer in the musical, Miss Saigon, died in Las Vegas May 23.
A Hong Kong native of Chinese-Filipino descent, Mr. Ruivivar was 40, and had been battling leukemia. He was raised in Hawaii and married his high school sweetheart, Catherine, a performer, who survives him. They lived in Las Vegas.
Mr. Ruivivar made his Broadway debut in the musical, Chess, in 1988 and went on to appear in Starlight Express, Shogun-The Musical (winning a Theatre World Award for his performance as Lord Toranaga) and on Broadway and film in Stephen Sondheim's Passion (as the opera-singing Lieutenant Torasso).
In August 1991, he replaced a vacationing Jonathan Pryce for two weeks as the Engineer, and becoming the first performer of Asian descent to play the Eurasian role. He later replaced Mr. Pryce completely, taking the role over on Dec. 16, 1991 — opposite fellow Filipino Lea Salonga — and starred in the role through March 1993.
His tour credits include Old Deuteronomy in Cats, The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber opposite Sarah Brightman, an international tour of Evita and, most recently, The Wizard of Ozas the Cowardly Lion, opposite Eartha Kitt. Other notable credits included the concerts Anyone Can Whistle and Chess at Carnegie Hall, Out of This World for Encores! and the U.S. premiere of Notre Dame de Paris as Frollo.
Mr. Ruivivar had extensive regional theatre credits, as well as TV, film and animated specials. He also performed his own one-man shows: Broadway Showstoppers! and Broadway on the Beach.