Brow Beat

Against Hot Seymour

Hunky actors have no business playing the bespectacled nebbish of Little Shop of Horrors.

Jeremy Jordan, Gideon Glick, and Jonathan Groff.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Trevor Live and Emilio Madrid-Kuser.

The nerve that hot people have! Not only do they go around looking better than most of us, but now they’re taking our jobs! Case in point: The off-Broadway revival of Little Shop of Horrors has announced that Jeremy Jordan, veteran musical theater actor and known hottie, will step into the production’s lead role of Seymour starting in March.

Jordan—who starred in the film version of The Last Five Years, played the lead in the Broadway Newsies musical, and also appears on the TV show Supergirl—is in possession of the kind of highly symmetrical face and strong jawline that are typically much-sought-after in show business. With his talent and his face, Jordan shouldn’t want for acting work; most vehicles have plenty of room for a good-looking leading-man type. However, Little Shop of Horrors is not usually—and should not—be one of them.

As written, Seymour is one of pop culture’s greatest nerds, a character defined by his clumsiness, unrequited crush on his co-worker Audrey, and propensity for letting a literal plant push him around. The part historically has been nearly synonymous with the actor Rick Moranis, who made something of a specialty of such roles in the 1980s and ’90s and who played Seymour to nebbishy perfection in the 1986 film version of the musical.

No doubt this production of Little Shop of Horrors will attempt to slap some glasses on Jordan’s face to mask his rugged good looks, but the audience deserves better than that. Give us a real nerd! Jordan’s casting is just the latest example of the creeping hunkification of what had once been a solidly nonhunky role. Just look at who preceded him in the part of this particular production: The role is currently played by Gideon Glick, who has suspiciously good bone structure for someone who’s supposed to pass as a geek. And before that, guess who originated the role? Everyone’s favorite nerd … Jonathan Groff? No, I think not.

A Little Shop of Horrors with a hot Seymour simply can’t hit the same. One of the most famous parts of the show is when Audrey realizes that, despite Seymour being a huge dork and completely unlike the guys she usually goes for, she has feelings for him. It comes during a song called “Suddenly Seymour.” With a handsome guy like Jordan in the part, well, where’s the “suddenly” in that? “Obviously Seymour” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

I suppose you could argue that a better-looking Seymour represents some kind of progress, a closing of the Hollywood “attractiveness gap” that has long partnered beautiful women with less physically attractive men. Seymour is no longer a nerd because, uh, equality? But that would be a very convenient argument for hot people, and one that undermines the whole premise of the musical. This character is supposed to be a dork, and unless Jeremy Jordan commits to some extensive facial prosthetics and losing a chunk of his muscle mass, this is dork erasure, plain and simple. Heed me, Seymour.