Francis Ruivivar, veteran Broadway performer who made history with “Miss Saigon,” died Wednesday May 23 after battling leukemia. He was 40.
Born in Hong Kong and of Chinese/Filipino descent, Ruivivar was raised in Hawaii and made his Broadway debut in the musical “Chess” in 1988, then went on to appear in “Starlight Express,” “Shogun” and “Passion.”
In August 1991, he subbed for the vacationing Jonathan Pryce in “Miss Saigon,” becoming the first performer of Asian descent to play the starring role of the Engineer, a character of Eurasian descent. Ruivivar’s original stint in the role lasted for only two weeks, but in December of that year he replaced Pryce and continued in the role through March 1993.
The actor also appeared in tours of “Cats,” “Evita,” “The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber” and most recently “The Wizard of Oz.” His credits include concerts of “Anyone Can Whistle” and “Chess” at Carnegie Hall, as well as “Out of This World” at the Encores! series at Carnegie Hall.
Ruivivar had been living in Las Vegas, where he is survived by his wife, Catherine.