Saturday Night was set to premiere in the 1954-55 Broadway season. Announcements of the production appeared in the New York Times, and auditions were held in mid-1955, following some revisions to the music brought about by backers' auditions. In the summer of 1955, it appeared that Saturday Night would be Sondheim's musical debut on Broadway that fall. However, in August 1955, lead producer Lemuel Ayers died, leaving the production with little morale and even less cash. The production was scrapped, and the musical material shelved. Although a handful of songs from the musical have appeared in revues and on Sondheim compilation albums, the score as a whole went unperformed until 1997.
The Stephen Sondheim Society put on a student concert version of the musical at the University of Birmingham, written by Prof Stephen Banfield. It was then repeated the following year at the Bridewell Theatre, just off Fleet Street in London, in front of Stephen Sondheim. During the post-show Q & A session, one of the members of The Stephen Sondheim Society asked Mr Sondheim if he would now allow the show to be performed publicly. He agreed and Carol Metcalfe, Artistic Director of The Bridewell Theatre, immediately volunteered to stage it. Directed by Carol Metcalfe and Clive Paget, "Saturday Night" opened on December 17, 1997 and closed on January 24, 1998 after 38 performances. A cast recording was made, distributed by First Night (UK) and RCA Victor (US).
Following that production, the show had its U.S. premiere with Chicago's Pegasus Players. It opened at the O'Rourke Center for the Performing Arts, Truman College, Chicago, on May 19, 1999 and closed on July 18, 1999. Gary Griffin directed, with choreography by Marc Robin.
The New York premiere was at the off-Broadway Second Stage Theatre on February 17, 2000, where it ran until March 26, 2000, for 45 performances. The Second Stage production was directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall, and featured David Campbell (Gene), Lauren Ward (Helen), Natascia Diaz (Florence), Christopher Fitzgerald (Bobby), and Andrea Burns (Celeste). This production won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Lyrics. A recording was made with this original New York cast, released on June 20, 2000 by Nonesuch (ASIN: B00004TG64).
When asked his reaction to seeing Saturday Night performed in New York after 40 years, Sondheim replied, "I don't have any emotional reaction to Saturday Night at all--except fondness. It's not bad stuff for a 23-year-old. There are some things that embarrass me so much in the lyrics--the missed accents, the obvious jokes. But I decided, Leave it. It's my baby pictures. You don't touch up a baby picture--you're a baby!"