Miami Beach – from Mangrove Swamp to Global Hotspot

Arts at St Johns, the rowdy offspring of St John’s United Methodist Church, wants to set the record straight about the real history of Miami Beach. Their new production, “MIAMI BEACH – the Musical,” takes a down-to-earth look at the city’s over 100 year history, from the high and mighty, down to the grassroots and often anonymous people who helped build Miami Beach.
Early Miami Beach was no paradise, the whole area was just a mangrove swamp filled with crocodiles, mosquitoes, rats, skunks and other inhospitable vermin. The Tequesta Indians could not even live here, though they occasionally paddled over to fish and catch shellfish.
Most early settlers in Miami Beach had dreams of taming the wilderness and growing rich. Initially through agriculture, then later through tourism, winter residents, water sports, and a genteel self-indulgence. Few people thought they would actually settle down in Miami Beach.
Today visitors total 3.5 million annually, with a resident population of  approximately 87,000, or about 2.5% of the total, all within a 7 square-mile area. Gone are the crocodiles, but vestiges of wildlife remain — including the human variety.
For over 90 years, St John’s Church has been part of the Miami Beach scene. The fledgling congregation first gathered in 1923 at a popular weekend destination for mainlanders — at Smith’s Casino, south of 1st street on Ocean Drive! Yet, like many people in Miami Beach’s history, St. Johns slips under the radar when people talk about the glitzy history of Miami Beach, with its celebrities, millionaires, sun and scandal.
Similarly forgotten are the everyday people of different ethnicities, backgrounds, and economic levels who have contributed to the color and history of Miami Beach: the Midwesterners, Jewish Americans, Blacks, Japanese, Cubans and other Hispanics, Lebanese, Bahamians, Haitians, Hispanics, New Yorkers, Italians, Greeks and more.
“MIAMI BEACH – the Musical,” in original song, dance, comedy, photos and videos, tells the bigger picture of Miami Beach, from Carl Fisher, Barbara Capitman and the Rat Pack, down to the cab drivers, shopkeepers, and bellhops. The musical is directed by David Kingery, who has incorporated historical research by Dr. Carol Hoffman-Guzman into an entertaining and poignant story that is augmented by the scriptwriting of author/playwright David Leddick.
The music is written by South Florida composers: Andrew Sargent, David Cohen and Kristen Long. Local singers, dancers and actors are being auditioned for various parts in the show.
The show debuts at the St. John’s Church on Friday October 1st and Saturday October 2nd at 8 pm and Sunday October 3rd at 3 pm. Tickets are $25 at the door, and $20 online at
For more information, call 305-613-2325 or send us an email at:

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