? Shooting Stars Foundation presents Motown Meltdown, Saturday, March 23, 7 p.m. at the Commodore Ballroom, 868 Granville St., Vancouver. Tickets $40.75 at ticketmaster.ca.
CHUCK Berry was in jail, Elvis was in the army, and the Beatles were still in their teens.
The end of the 1950s presented a pop culture void, and ambitious entrepreneur and Jackie Wilson songwriter Berry Gordy, Jr. set out to fill it with something spectacular.
Youthful energy, mainstream sensibility, and the precise groove of the drummers, strummers, and horns from Detroit's jazz scene fused to create a sound that was both innocuous and inspiring, pure and potent.
The music of Hitsville, U.S.A. is set to be celebrated March 23 with the Motown Meltdown, featuring 25 performers interpreting music from the label that showcased Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Mary Wells, and Marvin Gaye.
Among the performers attempting to recreate the magic created in that famed garage studio is singer and voice actor Rebecca Shoichet.
Born in Ottawa and raised in Victoria, Shoichet was raised on the music of Rickie Lee Jones and Earth, Wind & Fire, not truly discovering jazz until she found herself facing the chasm between the end of high school and the beginning of her adult life.
At the age of 18 Shoichet was the veteran of nearly a decade's worth of shows at the Victoria Operatic Society but saw no place to pursue her passion for musical theatre.
Her brother, a bass player, had his own ideas. "He said, 'You know, you should learn some jazz standards. In fact we could busk downtown,'" Shoichet recalls. "We decided to put together a trio my first year out of high school."
Between serving as a nanny and haunting Victoria cafes with a sound influenced by soulful song stylist Sarah Vaughan, Shoichet searched for her niche.
"I couldn't find any musical theatre where I could study dance, study acting and study singing at that time," she says.
As luck would have it, a friend returned to Victoria that Christmas bearing news of just such a program.
"She came back at Christmas time and said, 'I am in the most amazing program. You're going to freak out.'"
After freaking out, Shoichet hopped a plane for Toronto and auditioned for Sheridan College.
Despite a head cold escorted by a temporary loss of hearing, Shoichet's voice was strong enough to gain her entry into the arts school.
"Throughout the program especially, it comes into light who's willing to do the hard work and who's willing to just ride on pure talent," she says. "The people that stayed were not necessarily the people who were the most talented but the people who were really willing to work their butts off because it's a hard business to be in."
Asked what Sheridan's talent judges saw in her, Shoichet takes a moment before answering.
"I guess maybe what they saw was a positive attitude and willingness to work maybe some nuggets of talent," she offers. That talent was put to the test when Shoichet graduated.
"I took a leap of faith when I moved to Vancouver after going to school. I decided not to do any barista jobs or anything like that just to see if I could get my foot in the door in the Vancouver scene," she says.
The voice that was on display on Victoria streets continued to be an asset for Shoichet, who used her range, power and feel to sing funk with Soulstream, French pop with Mimosa, and bring life to dogs, pixies, and fairies.
When not on stage, Shoichet has been the voice behind characters in InuYasha and other anime programs as well as Twilight Sparkle in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.
"I still have a special place in my heart for a character I played in Kid vs. Kat and his name was Lorne. He was a bit of a bruiser, the stocky kid who was a bit of a bully, but because he wasn't super-bright, was pretty endearing and fun to play," she says.
Speaking to the North Shore News while parked on the side of the road, shortly after dropping her kids off at school and before heading to rehearsals, Shoichet reflects on her career.
"There's a lot to be said for having faith, that if you keep working at it that you'll find your niche and you'll get the role that you deserve," she says. "I think being in this business it's always a bit of a test. . . . Are you up for it this year?
Can you keep making this your business, because it's not a stable career by any means. It's like a rollercoaster. Some years you hardly make any money, and some years you make more money. I also learned how to diversify which was a huge asset for me. So I do the voiceover, and I do the commercial work and I do the singer/songwriter stuff on my own."
While lending emotions to an animated bee may seem distinct from her musical career, the two pursuits complement each other, according to Shoichet.
"You draw on feelings from within yourself as you would when you're acting any character on stage," she says of singing. "Otherwise it makes it just the notes."
Shoichet is planning to do her version of Brenda Holloway's hit "You've Made Me So Very Happy" at the Motown Meltdown show.
The pop song, which marries jazz crooning with full-on gospel testifying, has been covered several times.
"I've decided to use the Blood, Sweat and Tears version because it's pretty rockin,'" Shoichet says. "When it comes to doing a show like Motown Meltdown you only get one shot."
It's been more than 50 years since the first Motown 45 was pressed (Marv Johnson's "Come to Me").
Despite the musical craftsmanship that textured the Motown sound, the label was always in close contact with the listener. Motown was known for testing tracks on a small radio to get an idea how its singles would sound on a car radio, according to the book Where Did Our Love Go? by Nelson George.
For Shoichet, the appeal of Motown has not worn off over the last half-century.
"It comes from a really solid groove and an understanding of that kind of heart in music.
People were writing from the soul. It's soul music. There's magic to it. And it also makes people want to dance. It makes people feel good about being alive."