John is, by far, the Quote King of stage door and there are far too many to choose from, but I think one of my personal favourites was, when discussing the Skimbleshanks who took over from him letting his 'mouse' meet a violent end, him gasping and going "Oh dear, no! My mouse was still alive!!" - he just sounded so earnestly concerned!
An attempt at a sombre expression in his headshot is undermined by a warm twinkle in the eyes. Every character on his winding list a smiler or a madman.
- from 'John' in At The Stage Door
The first time I ever saw John McManus as Skimbleshanks was in Llandudno, shortly before my stage dooring days; John came up to me in the Finale, saw how much I was enjoying singing along to Mistoffelees in the Finale and proceeded to sit on my lap, beaming at me, clapping and singing along in time with me until he had to return to the stage. I went back to our B&B on a happy cloud! John's performance of Skimbleshanks was absolutely brilliant to watch - he brought out a softer side to the character than I'd ever seen before as well as a silliness that really added some lovely comedic moment to his interactions with other characters, a particular favourite of mine being his shaking hands/saluting mix-up with Bustopher Jones that usually happened about three times before Bustopher gave up on him, much to his disappointment! John also gave Skimbleshanks the most marvellous, manic laugh - it's surprising how much a few "Wooooohoohoohahahahahahahaha!" outbursts added to the Skimbleshanks number, but, I kid you not, it was a stroke of genius! John has got the most amazing warm-toned voice, and listening to him sing was always a treat, and I have to say, when I got to see him in Top Hat, it was one of the things I most looked forward to in every show because he got to sing a solo at the opening of Act Two and it was just so gorgeous getting to hear him sing that way.
Offstage, John is just such an angel - full of enthusiasm and warmth. He was always the first to pull us in for a hug and to stop to chat with us if he saw us before a show - one time when we went up to Edinburgh to see him in Sunshine On Leith, we were having lunch in the theatre cafe and he happened to walk past and spot us there (the theatre was glass-fronted) and he came right in and sat down and talked to us for a good half-hour about everything from what the new cast of Cats were up to to what his family were up to. He's just so kind and so funny - he has such a big heart and, though he plays at the odd catty comment and eye-roll, you would honestly be hard-pushed to find somehow lovelier. When I first went to see him in Top Hat, it had been a long time since I had seen him last and a part of me was worried he wouldn't remember me, but then when he saw me at stage door he was just as warm as ever, full of hugs and questions as to what I was up to. He couldn't get over how much I'd grown and it was so sweet having him fuss over me - "Look at you, all grown up!" - and I was so happy to see him again. John was just the same back in the Cats days though, always so willing to chat and to fuss over us and look after us, worrying about how cold or how hot we were getting standing out at stage door! One time, when we went to see him in Doctor Dolittle, he invited us backstage and gave us a little tour, even taking photos with us on the stage and giving the most hilarious running commentary on the weird and wonderful stage set-up for the show; every experience with John is sort of a fantastical whirlwind in that way and it's something so unique to him, that kind of wild warmth. He is also one of the most quoteable people I've ever met, and came up with some true gems that I still quote at random sometimes!
I’ve always found that the most beautiful people, truly beautiful inside and out, are the ones who are quietly unaware of their effect.
- Jennifer L. Armentrout
Bless John's heart, he is one of the sweetest, funniest, craziest people I have ever met and I adore him! John is a bundle of energy and warmth and eccentricity. He was lovely to us from the beginning and his big, bright, Edinburgh voice ringing out from a stage door with a 'Hiiiiiiiiiiii giiiiiiiiirls!' has to be one of my favourite sounds ever. You can't not grin when you're around him! He's just a force of nature and you have to love him for it. Someone from the Doctor Dolittle cast once told us that John likes to try his hardest to project a bitchy front when he was tired or in a mood, but the truth of it is that he's actually softer than butter and squishy as anything, so he inevitably fails to hold it in for very long and that softness would always spill over when he found us at the stage door waiting for him or spotted us in the audience. That description always stuck with me because it just made me appreciate him ten times more. I've loved John from the moment I saw him perform as a very lovable and eccentric Skimbleshanks in Llandudno, but I don't think I fully appreciated him until after the tour, looking back on all our stage door times with him, and then when he spotted us in the theatre cafe in Edinburgh and came straight over to hug us and talk to us...it was one of the loveliest things anyone could do in that situation and the talk we had then was so funny and sweet to boot. John is so precious, and I hope he knows that when I called him 'Mad Aunt John' in one of my stories, it was meant with a huge amount of affection...and perhaps some light teasing!