Oil City Symphony
A nostalgic, toe-tapping delight, four musicians reunite to perform at their alma mater.
Show Essentials

Full Synopsis

Act One

This show is a revue of songs and stories that is set in the framework of a high school musical group reuniting many years later in front of a group of their peers.

Mark warms up the audience with some humorous introductory remarks and then brings the rest of the cast on stage. Although they appear nervous, they are clearly a group of talented and versatile performers ("Count Your Blessings").

Debbie introduces the group and remembers the days when they were all in high school together and gave recitals. The next number features Mark and Mary playing a variety of their instruments ("Czardas"). Upon completion, each member of the group gives a bit of detailed historical and technical information about the different instruments that they play: Mark and the piano, Mary and the violin, Debbie and the drums, and Mike on the synthesizer.

Next, the Oil City Symphony plays the song for which they won the Melody League Award ("Anvil Chorus"). In the following number, the group switches up instruments and rocks out a bit ("In-a-gadda-da-vida"). Debbie then gets up from her drums and moves downstage to sing an "old favorite" ("Ohio Afternoon"). The rest of the group backs her up. They then transition to a cute group number ("Double Date").

To loosen everyone up, Debbie leads the group – and the audience – in a childhood favorite song and dance ("The Hokey Pokey")! With everyone all shook out, the group goes back to their instruments. Each person proceeds to tell his/her story of how he/she became a professional musician.

After this stroll down memory lane, Mike quickly steps forward to remind them all that their next song was one they found in their music teacher's piano bench. It's about a party that a bunch of animals had ("Beaver Ball at the Bug Club"). They all jump in for a riotous polka ("Beehive Polka"). To conclude, they decide to treat the audience to a musical "smorgasbord" ("Patriotic Fantasy").

Act Two

Mark and Mike enter from opposite sides of the stage and go to their instruments, Mark to the piano and Mike to the synthesizer. With a bit of a flourish, they play a dueling piano piece ("Dizzy Fingers").

Mary and Debbie then enter. The group does a number that is interspersed with stories about their lives. We learn quirky facts about them, including the fact that Mark is currently the Minister at Mt. Zion Presbyterian Church, that Debbie's hobbies include needlepoint and jazz-aerobics, that Mary is an avid fan of Roller Derby, and that Mike's secret ambition is to play the Mexican Hat Dance at the Chicago White Sox stadium ("Getting Acquainted"). Mike then reads a poem and sings a romantic song ("Iris"). Mary and Debbie respond with a duet about how we would be nothing without love in our lives ("The End of the World").

Debbie steps forward and confesses that the entire cast wouldn't be anything if it weren't for music. She insists that they owe it all to a woman who happens to be in the audience: their music teacher, Miss Hazel Reeves. Debbie leads the audience in applause and the four actors celebrate and honor the woman who taught them so much ("Dear Miss Reeves"). They then play one of her favorite songs ("Coaxing the Ivories").

Next, the four of them are ready to do a song of which they are especially proud... because it's an original! It brings back memories of a special time that they all shared together on the high school Mixed Chorus trip to Knott's Berry Farm ("Bus Ride").

Eventually, they all join in for a more sentimental song ("By the Sweet by and By"). Before finishing off the evening for good, they remind the audience that there is punch and cookies out in the lobby. Sure, they see a lot of old faces out there, but they'd also like to meet all of the new ones, too. They also want to thank some very special people: Mr. LaVerne and the audiovisual club, and their very own mothers and fathers who waited in the car while they took music lessons. They conclude the performance with a high-energy number ("My Old Kentucky Rock and Roll Home").

Following the bows, an encore number is performed to thank the place that made all of their musical dreams come true, Oil City High ("Oil City Finale").

← Back to Oil City Symphony
Cast Size: Small (Up to 10 performers)
Dance Requirements: None

Character Breakdown

The "host" of the recital who resembles the stereotypical, old-fashioned Sunday school teacher. He is an excellent pianist and sometimes loses himself in the music when he plays. Also plays the accordion.
Gender: male
Age: 30 to 40
Vocal range top: A5
Vocal range bottom: G2
Shy. Soft-spoken. Appealing. A bit of a hippy and a nerd, he is the former member of an acid rock band. Hails from a classical music background and is a guidance counselor by trade. Plays the synth, piano, and vibraslap.
Gender: male
Age: 30 to 40
Vocal range top: F5
Vocal range bottom: G2
A prim music teacher. Though she doesn't smile much, she is likable. Passionate about performing as she comes from a family of musicians. Plays the violin, saxophone, flute, and slide whistle!
Gender: female
Age: 30 to 40
Vocal range top: F5
Vocal range bottom: G3
Smiling, gracious and ferocious. She is a prom-queen and ex-cheerleader who enjoys rock 'n roll. Always looking to play the 'glamorous' part.
Gender: female
Age: 30 to 40
Vocal range top: B5
Vocal range bottom: B3
Full Song List
Oil City Symphony: Count Your Blessings
Oil City Symphony: Czardas
Oil City Symphony: The Anvil Chorus
Oil City Symphony: In A-Gadda-Da-Vida
Oil City Symphony: Ohio Afternoon
Oil City Symphony: The Hokey Pokey
Oil City Symphony: Beaver Ball At The Bug Club
Oil City Symphony: Beehive Polka
Oil City Symphony: Hungarian Rhapsody
Oil City Symphony: Stars And Stripes (Patriotic Fantasy)
Oil City Symphony: 1812 Overture
Oil City Symphony: Dizzy Fingers
Oil City Symphony: Getting Acquainted
Oil City Symphony: Iris
Oil City Symphony: End Of The World
Oil City Symphony: Dear Miss Reeves
Oil City Symphony: Coaxing The Ivories
Oil City Symphony: Bus Ride
Oil City Symphony: In The Sweet By And By
Oil City Symphony: My Old Kentucky Rock And Roll Home

Show History


Although the setting for, and characters in, Oil City Symphony are fictional, the show plays on a familiar trope of getting the band back together one more time. Miss Reaves, the evening's supposed guest of honor (who is seated in the audience, but never seen) is based on performer/writer Mark Hardwick's music teacher, Denny Eaves. In fitting with the style and conceit of the show, the songs by various composers are classic Americana tunes.

The performer/creators of Oil City Symphony acted in Pump Boys and Dinettes together and then began playing piano duets. Debra Monk joined them as a drummer, and the trio soon expanded to a quartet with Sharon Scruggs, who was later replaced by Mary Murfitt. This group came up with the idea for Oil City Symphony and performed it.


An early, hour-long version of Oil City Symphony played at the Westside Arts Theatre and the South Street Theatre on 42nd Street in New York City. Producers then sent the show to Dallas, where it was developed, expanded and honed before playing Baltimore and coming back to New York.

Oil City Symphony opened Off-Broadway in November of 1987 and exploded into popularity. It eventually played 626 performances at the Circle in the Square Theatre on Bleecker Street in New York City.

Oil City Symphony has been produced regionally across the United States. It returned to Manhattan in October of 2000, where it played at the 75-seat cabaret space, Danny's Grand Sea Palace, in Midtown. Given the setting, this Equity staging of the show adopted the concept that musicians were performing at Cap'n Danny's Oriental Seafood Shack, site of annual alumni gatherings in the fictional Midwest town of Oil City.

The original 1987 stars and creators, Mike Craver and Mary Murfitt, reteamed for the production, with Murfitt directing.

Cultural Influence

  • In 2012, Debra Monk performed the song, "Ohio Afternoon," (which she wrote with Mark Hardwick) as part of the If It Only Ever Runs a Minute concert series at Le Poisson Rouge. In addition to this song from Oil City Symphony, the evening featured songs and stories from A Man of No Importance, The Gay Life, Molly, Musical Chairs, Parade, The Prince of Central Park, They're Playing Our Song and Violet.
  • The original cast recording of Oil City Symphony was released on August 1, 1988.
  • Before collaborating on Oil City Symphony, author/performers Debra Monk and Mark Hardwick co-wrote the Broadway show, Pump Boys and Dinettes, along with several other actor/performers.


  • The four performers who originally appeared in Oil City Symphony are also the show's writers.
  • Author/performers Debra Monk went on to a major role in Assassins and a Tony Award for her part in the play, Redwood Curtain, after her turn in Oil City Symphony. She is now a household name of the American theatre.
  • In some of its late-run New York advertising, the show was billed simply as Oil City because there was concern that potential theatregoers might be confused and think that the show was actually a performance by a visiting symphony.
  • Author/performers Mark Hardwick and Debra Monk were fellow students at Southern Methodist University.

Critical Reaction

"More than a tinge of moon madness, Oil City Symphony is its own refreshment. A musical with charm and a sure sense of its own identity."
– New York Times

"An endearing slice of nostalgic Americana that few will resist."
– Variety

"A gusher! Better than John Philip Sousa played on massed kazoos with free ice-cream and bubble gum."
– Clive Barnes, "New York Post"

"A unique and special show that our subscribers flipped over – it had the audiences dancing in the aisles."
– Pasadena Playhouse

Outer Critics Circle Award

1987 - Best Off- Broadway Musical, Winner (Oil City Symphony)

Drama Desk Award

1987 - Outstanding Ensemble Performance, Winner (Oil City Symphony)
1988 - Outstanding Ensemble Performance, Winner ()

Outstanding Off-Broadway Musical

1988 - Outer Critics Circle Award -, Nominee (Outstanding Off-Broadway Musical)

Best Ensemble

1988 - Drama Desk Award -, Nominee (Best Ensemble)




You must give the authors/creators billing credits, as specified in the Production Contract, in a conspicuous manner on the first page of credits in all programs and on houseboards, displays and in all other advertising announcements of any kind.
Percentages listed indicate required type size in relation to title size.
Originally Produced Off-Broadway by
Lois Deutchman, Mary T. Nealon and David Musselman
Licensee agrees to insert in each program of the play the following credit line for each of the following compositions:
"Ohio Afternoon," "Beaver Ball," "Dear Miss Reeves," "My Old Kentucky Rock and Roll Home," "Bus Ride" - music by Mark Hardwick and Debra Monk, lyrics by Mike Craver (Lewis Mark Hardwick Publishing, ASCAP, Double Cupp Publishing, ASCAP: Sapsucker Publishing, BMI): "Iris" music and lyrics by Mike Craver, Mark Hardwick and Debra Monk, lyrics by Debra Monk (Sapsucker Publishing, BMI, Lewis Mark Hardwick Publishing, ASCAP: Double Cupp Publishing, ASCAP): "In A Gadda Da Vida" words and music by Doug Ingle © 1968, 1969 Cotillion Music Inc., Ten Easy Music and Itasca Music: "Double Date" lyrics by Mike Craver, music by Mike Craver and Mark Hardwick (Sapsucker Publishing, BMI: Lake of the Pines Publishing, ASCAP): "Dizzy Fingers" by Zev Confrey, Mills Music, Inc. © 1923 renewed: "The End of the World" lyrics by Silvia Dee, music by Arthur Kent © 1962 Summit Music: "Coaxing the Ivories" actual title is "Coaxing the Piano" by Zev Confrey © 1922 Mills Music, Inc., copyright renewed: "Getting Acquainted" music and lyrics by Mary Murfitt: "Finale" lyrics by Mike Craver, music by Mike Craver and Mark Hardwick (Sapsucker Publishing, BMI: Lake of the Pines Publishing, ASCAP)

Video Warning

In accordance with the Performance License, you MUST include the following warning in all programs and in a pre-show announcement:


Included Materials

ItemQuantity Included

Production Resources