The upbeat, classic show tune that she chose at Telsey’s suggestion for “Miscast” is no mismatch for her high-wattage talent, and at 33 she is arguably not too young for it. Warren noted, though, that “a woman that looks like me wouldn’t necessarily be seen as a first choice in casting” the role in the show it comes from.
Its overwhelmingly white casting history isn’t the reason, though, that she considers it political for her to sing the song in this “very, very dark time.”
“This song brings me a lot of joy,” she said, “and right now Black joy is a political act. Me choosing to perform right now is a statement, because I didn’t want to sing for a minute.”
Asked when that ended, she said: “Oof. It’s still kind of happening.” Had she been on the fence about doing “Miscast”? “Yep,” she answered, instantly.
“The first people we go to when something goes wrong in our world are our artists,” Warren said. “We go to them and say, ‘Make us feel better.’ And I wasn’t feeling good. So many of us weren’t feeling quite ourselves.”
Still, she is encouraged by the shift in consciousness that she sees taking place, and the conversations happening around race and identity. While she plans to hold the theater world accountable for its systemic issues, she said she is hopeful that when it comes back, casting agencies, too, will be “looking at things in a different way, widening their lenses.”
A song for brighter days
Headley, in Chicago, was still in what she called “complete lockdown” when she recorded her “Miscast” number, and she had plenty of emotional fodder — the coronavirus, “what was going on in the streets,” the place the song holds in her history. She sang it barefoot, “toes gripping the earth.”