Once upon a time John Kevin Jones was one of Memphis' most easily recognized actors. He was in everything: Shakespeare, Shaw, Tennessee Williams, A Tuna Christmas, original works, and even the controversial Corpus Christi. Now a New York resident, Jones is returning to Memphis to perform his one-man version of A Christmas Carol.
"It's true. The Muppets and Patrick Stewart have already been here and done excellent work," Jones says of the careworn and much-beloved material. "People should expect the same ending," he adds. "But it is the many journeys that make A Christmas Carol sing. I just try to be true to the words and deliver them with their full value. Dickens really crafted this story beautifully. As an actor, it is a very rewarding experience."
There are some advantages to working solo. And no small amount of terror. "The best thing about a one-man show is how well the cast all get along," Jones says. "A Christmas Carol can be harrowing, though, as you hear Dickens mangled in your mouth or you know that you've forgotten a line. Then you take a breath, and it comes out of you. The first part is horrifying, and the second is exhilarating."
Jones, who often played Nephew Fred in Theatre Memphis' annual Carol, is drawn back to the material because of its message and possibilities. "Scrooge isn't just a bad man who sees some terrible stuff, feels guilty, and turns his life around cheerfully," he says. "Bah humbug, indeed. Scrooge is you, he's me. He's a kind of anti-everyman. It's the possibility of a meaningless life that turns him around.
"I'm very nostalgic about performing in Memphis," Jones says. "I'm looking forward to seeing old friends most. To be able to perform A Christmas Carol for them is just the icing."
Voices of the South presents A Christmas Carol with John Kevin Jones at Evergreen Theatre, Tuesday-Wednesday, December 18th-19th, 7 p.m. Tickets: $20