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Ken Jennings Brings ‘The Gospel of John’ to Life on Stage

The Broadway star, who memorized the book as an act of prayer, is now performing it for an audience.

Courtesy of the Sheen Center

Ken Jennings, award-winning star of numerous Broadway and Off Broadway shows, including Urinetown and Grand Hotel, and known for originating the role of Tobias Ragg in the Broadway premiere of Sweeney Todd, is bringing a new, more personal play to the stage.

The project, “The Gospel of John,” is a 90-minute, physically demanding performance with no intermission. Jennings said it was conceived a few years ago during a difficult time in his personal life, when he turned to prayer, and, more specifically, to memorizing Scripture.

“I thought a good way to deal with a rough time is prayer, of course,” Jennings told “I thought, ‘Well, one of the things I might be able to do is memorize the Gospel of John,’”

Jennings, a lifelong Catholic, said he’s always had “a special affinity for that Gospel.”

What began as a private exercise has now transformed into a performance; although for Jennings it is still prayer.

“Even when I’m on stage, I have to be very aware that this is not primarily a performance,” Jennings said. “I have to also actually pray that Jesus walks with me as I’m sure that John felt He was walking with Him throughout all the moments of his life.”

Jennings hopes this type of performance helps audiences understand the oral storytelling John would have first used to spread his message. 

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“John would have told this before it was ever in a written form, so my idea is to try to do this in the way John might’ve first told it to the first listeners,” Jennings said.

For Jennings, who did not start memorizing the Gospel with any intention of performing it, the show is a great blessing.

“It’s really a gift of the Holy Spirit,” Jennings said. “It is a prayer. It started out as a prayer and remains a prayer.”

Ken Jennings will be performing The Gospel of John at the Sheen Center for Thought & Culture in New York City from November 30 to December 29. For more information, visit the Sheen Center website.

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