It’s 1959, and 17-year-old Mazie Butterfield dreams of becoming a Broadway star—no easy feat for a Nebraska farm girl who waitresses as a carhop for meager tips. When her beloved grandmother dies and leaves her a small inheritance, Mazie breaks up with her boyfriend, Jesse, and heads to New York City.
Mazie knows getting a part in a Broadway musical will be tough, but she’s not prepared for the callousness of show business. Before she’s even opened her mouth to sing, casting directors dismiss her for her broad stature, freckles and quaint surname. Just when her money runs out, she gets a part in a traveling stage production that puts her at odds with a lecherous director. Mazie always knew that running toward a dream would be hard; she just never realized the heart she’d break could be her own.
The farm girl with big-city dreams is a classic Hollywood trope that feels fresh and contemporary in Melanie Crowder’s capable hands. The titular protagonist of Mazie is hardworking, if a tad naive. She’s open to new experiences, including getting acquainted with Broadway’s underground gay scene. Her confrontations with men who abuse their positions ring frustratingly true even in our #MeToo era.
The conflict between Mazie and Jesse highlights the tough choices faced by those who seek stardom, leaving behind family and friends and altering their appearances and even their names to appease audiences. Although Mazie is white and Christian, she is asked to lose weight and slough off her country manners in order to be more palatable to Broadway producers. Crowder has clearly done her research as she brings the golden age of musical theater to life, but readers may find themselves just as nostalgic for the quiet life of a small Nebraska farm as for glitzy, postwar Manhattan by the time they finish Mazie’s story.