Producers Alex A. Aarons and Vinton Freedley approached the Gershwins to create a showcase for the talents of English music hall star Jack Buchanan, and linked them with Fields and Ryskind, whose book required the actor to appear in dual roles, lower-class German thug Golo Schmidt and upper-crust British nobleman Michael Bramleigh. The sophisticated Buchanan had no problem portraying Bramleigh but was unable to capture the essence of Schmidt. The show opened in Philadelphia to critical pans. Rather than proceed to Broadway, the creative team added characters and expanded the role of police commissioner Bauer, played by radio's "Baron Munchausen", Jack Pearl. The revised production opened in Newark on January 2, 1933, but it was obvious that Buchanan was still a major problem. He bought out his contract and the producers replaced him with dialect comedian George Givot.
The production opened on January 20 at the Majestic Theatre and ran for only 43 performances. The book was directed by John McGowan, the production was staged by producer Vinton Freedley, and the musical numbers were staged by George Hale. In addition to Givot and Pearl, the cast included Josephine Huston as Bauer's daughter Ilse and musical-comedy star Lyda Roberti (another who spoke with heavy dialect) as Gita Gobel.
In 1982, a producer discovered a number of the forgotten musical's manuscripts in the Warner Brothers warehouse in Secaucus, New Jersey. The score was pieced together and performed at the Library of Congress. Elektra Records released a studio cast album featuring John Cullum and William Katt in 1993. In 2004, New York City Center's Encores! staged a revival with a revised book by David Ives. Directed by Gary Griffin and choreographed by Rob Ashford, it featured Brian d'Arcy James as Golo/Michael, Emily Skinner as Gita, Jennifer Laura Thompson as Frieda (originally Ilse), and Rob Bartlett as Bauer. The Euopean premiere is planned by the Dresden State Operetta in November 2009, directed by Holger Hauer and conducted by Ernst Theis.
In order to promote the sale of beer and wine, the German government bans the sale of all non-alcoholic beverages. In retaliation, Golo Schmidt opens Club 21, a speakeasy where patrons can imbibe such forbidden drinks as cream soda and ginger ale. Police Commissioner Bauer makes it his mission to shut down the illegal operation.
Golo decides to disrupt a birthday celebration for Bauer, but while en route to the party he is struck by a car and knocked unconscious. When he awakens in Bauer's home, he believes he is Michael Bramleigh, a wealthy, sophisticated member of British society. He eventually falls in love with Bauer's daughter Ilse and proposes marriage.
A birdhouse falls on Bramleigh, and his memory returns. Golo once again, he has no memory of his relationship with Ilse and returns to Club 21 and his sweetheart Gita Gobel. Hearing Bauer's daughter is about to marry, he plans to kidnap the bride and hold her for ransom. At the wedding, Golo locates Ilse, who naturally thinks he's her fiance Michael, and the two escape to an inn in Schandau.
Golo, inexplicably thinking he's Michael once again, returns to Bauer's house and apologizes for missing the wedding. The two plot to find Ilse and save her from her kidnapper. Recognized as Golo by some and Michael by others, the hero becomes involved in a series of comic misadventures.