Preview: On the musical trail of 'Three Amigos'

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Orion Czarnecki figures that if his grandmother could win an award for turning her VW bug into a giant chicken, he might as well follow his quirkier instincts, too.

So, the Beaver Falls native, a drummer who does cyber security by day, decided to pursue his own whim of making a documentary about his favorite movie.

And that would be "Three Amigos."

OK, the 1986 comedy Western starring Steve Martin, Chevy Chase and Martin Short isn't up there among the classics, "Citizen Kane," "Gone With the Wind" and "Seven Samurai," upon which it is based, but the Amigos' dilemma of having to become heroes and save a Mexican village spoke to Mr. Czarnecki.

'Amigos Live!'

Where: New Hazlett Theater, North Side.

When: 7 p.m. Saturday.

Tickets: $10-$40 (VIP);

"It's the story of somebody that's in over their head and confronted with a situation where they have to rise up. I think Pittsburgh has seen that, too, in our history. We have a history of just getting it done. When you're faced with the need to do something -- the need to be a better person, the need to be a better musician -- sometimes you have to push yourself, and I think the movie, that's what I connected with. Plus, it's funny. Everything now is political, everything now is toilet humor. It was just a funny movie and it had a lot of heart to it."

To mark the movie's 25th anniversary, he threw a party celebrating the film and had a turnout of 53 people, a sign that he wasn't alone in his adoration of the "Three Amigos." Although he had "zero experience" in filmmaking, he decided he would make a documentary about the movie, tracking down the crew and stars.

He was shopping at Costco one day early last year when he got an email back from Alfonso Arau, the movie's villain, El Guapo. The actor, who has gone on to direct such films as "Like Water for Chocolate" and "A Walk in the Clouds," agreed to be interviewed. Mr. Czarnecki won't divulge whether he's talked to the three big stars but says he has been across the country and back and is halfway through shooting the film.

To stir up interest and funding, he is unveiling an important piece of the project -- the rock soundtrack adaptation to the film -- with the concert "Amigos Live!" at the New Hazlett Theater. Knowing that he wouldn't be able to license the music for the documentary, he and a group of musicians adapted the score by the late Elmer Bernstein and songs by Randy Newman.

"The score of this film is so incredible, from the French horns to the percussion," he says. "It is one of the most incredible music scores. I love music scores, 'Lord of the Rings' and all that stuff, but nothing sounds like this score. The music's tough, and it's orchestral. We wanted to pay tribute to it note for note."

Mr. Czarnecki, who played in the progressive rock band Armed Aria, is joined by bassist Alan Barker, violinist Grace M. Callahan, saxophonist Elyse Louise, keyboardist James Rushin and guitarists Dean Shumaker, Steve Miller (not THAT one), Cody Winget and Zoob. He says the music ranges from rock salsa to blues to metal.

The concert also features Miguel's Mariachi Fiesta and Latin-rock act Guaracha, plus clips from the documentary.

"A lot of people of it think of it as a cult classic. I don't think it's reached that, but when you bring it up to people, they're so adamantly in love with the film, they get a smile on their face."


Scott Mervis:; 412-263-2576.


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