This show was to have been Stephen Sondheim's professional debut. Backers auditions were being held at least as early as March 1954. On May 30, 1955, the New York Times reported (on page 7) that the show, which was being produced by Lemuel Ayers and John B. Ryan 3d, would go into rehearsal on August 1. No director, choreographer or cast members were mentioned. The production may have still been having trouble obtaining full financing as it did not start rehearsals on August 1, and then Ayers died unexpectedly on August 14. The project was abandoned.
Later 1950s Attempts
Jule Styne became interested in producing it in 1959, with Bob Fosse directing and choreographing. Joseph Kipness was to co-produce with Styne. It may have been during this period that Sondheim added "What More Do I Need? to the score. According to Paul Salsini's article "Saturday Night Still Stays on the Shelf" in the Summer 1997 issue of The Sondheim Review, there is a copy of the script, dated May 20, 1959, in the University of Wisconsin's Sondheim archves. This script does not contain the song suggesting that it dates from later than that. We have also heard, however, that the song may be in at least one earlier script, from 1955, that is at the Library of Congress.
According to Sondheim (as quoted in Craig Zadan's Sondheim & Co.), "When we started auditioning people, I got a terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach that I didn't want to regress. . . . It was a small charming show but I couldn't go ahead with it." The production was canceled.
There had been at least one earlier attempt to resurrect the show that seems not to have gotten very far at all. On May 20, 1958, it was reported in the New York Times that Milton H. Greene and Louis d'Almeida were hoping to produce the show. The article also said that they were trying to engage Timmy Everett — who was then playing in The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, for which he'd gotten rave reviews — to star.
The 1990s: Finally On Stage
On Nov. 26, 1994, musicologist Stephen Banfield (author of Sondheim's Broadway Musicals) presented a concert version (which he had orchestrated) at the University of Birmingham in England. On Sept. 23, 1995, some of Banfield's students presented scenes from the show at the Bridewell Theatre in London. Sondheim was there and must have been pleased because in 1997 he allowed the Bridewell to present the first full production.
For the Bridewell production, Sondheim made some cuts in the score and revised some lyrics. For the first American production, Sondheim added two songs not in the Bridewell production: "Delighted I'm Sure" and "Montana Chem."
According to John Olson's article "All the Nights Before Saturday Night" in the Summer 1999 issue of The Sondheim Review, the lyric for "Delighted I'm Sure" was written in the 1950s but there was no music written for it at the time. (The article by Paul Salsini in the Summer 1997 issue mentions that it is in the script dated May 20, 1959.) "Montana Chem," on the other hand, was an entirely new song.
Both songs were included in the New York premiere at Second Stage and are in the licensed version of the show.