Los Angeles Times

Fairy-tale casting coup for this Red

- By Craig Nakano craig.nakano@latimes.com Twitter: @cnakano

She’s Little Red Ridinghood one minute, Rapunzel the next. Lisa Helmi Johanson juggles personas and hair pieces with aplomb in Fiasco Theater’s paredback, unabashedl­y silly “Into the Woods” running through May 14 at the Ahmanson Theatre in L.A. For this edited chat, Johanson discussed, among other topics, how a half-Korean, halfFinnis­h actress from Fairfax, Va., fits into the modern American musical.

Who’s more fun: Little Red Ridinghood or Rapunzel?

Tough decision. They’re both fun. From an acting standpoint, they span significan­t dramatic range and physical and vocal demands.

Most challengin­g part of either costume?

The Rapunzel hair was constantly falling down and covering my face, which, especially when twirling around on a ladder while singing, was not quite ideal. The clever folks in the costume shop installed a little cap with a thin, metal shelf to keep it more securely on my head. It’s the same little head caps used by the Rockettes. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love that detail.

Best surprise on this tour?

Being cast! I’m halfKorean and half-Finnish, and although the role is not ethnically specified, every time I’m cast in a role that could’ve gone to someone of any race, it’s a huge victory. I love being able to show that there’s just as much validity to a mixed Asian Little Red Ridinghood as a Caucasian one.

Avenue Q Puppet School is on your resume. Biggest lesson learned there?

Everyone’s a little bit racist. I keed, I keed! I learned incredibly valuable lessons. Honesty to your comedy will always be what wins. And that simplicity carries over into puppeteeri­ng. You can’t muddy up your movements.

The thing you wish an L.A. person would explain because it just doesn’t make sense?

Yo. People drive crazy on the freeways. And that’s coming from someone who now lives in New York. That was the first thing that sprung to mind. But I am living out my suburban dreams driving around town: You’d be amazed at the feeling of gratificat­ion to get liquids and heavy things from the grocery store without having to carry them on the subway.

 ?? Center Theatre Group ?? LISA HELMI Johanson goes “Into the Woods” with Fiasco Theater.
Center Theatre Group LISA HELMI Johanson goes “Into the Woods” with Fiasco Theater.

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