Composers Elmer Bernstein and Randy Newman aside, few will ever know the score to the movie ¡Three Amigos! as well as Orion Czarnecki. This week, Czarnecki and an impressive collection of local musicians will unveil ¡Amigos Live!, a colossal rock 'n' roll adaptation of the entire western- and Latin-themed soundtrack. With the live show, Czarnecki hopes to promote and fund the completion of his independent documentary chronicling the history of ¡Three Amigos!
Czarnecki began work on the documentary in 2011, in honor of the 25th anniversary of the 1986 comedy — which, for the uninitiated, stars Steve Martin, Martin Short and Chevy Chase as silent film stars who are mistaken for real heroes by Mexican villagers.
"[It] wasn't celebrated like Rocky Horror Picture Show or any of those cult movies, and I kind of took offense to that," Czarnecki says. Despite being a filmmaking novice, he managed to set up an interview with Alfonso Arau, who played El Guapo, the movie's villain and the personification of all challenges. (As Martin's character puts it, "We all have an El Guapo to face someday!") With Arau on board, Czarnecki remembers, "all these other actors started coming out of the woodwork."
Now in need of a soundtrack for the documentary, bassist Alan Barker suggested adapting and performing the original score themselves. Czarnecki — who has worked as a session drummer in Nashville and played in local rock bands — assembled his favorite Pittsburgh talent, and began the work of transposing the music for a seven-piece ensemble. Though many fans could doubtless hum a bar or two of "My Little Buttercup," Czarnecki says, "a lot of people who watch the movie don't hear the score and how beautiful it is." ¡Amigos Live! will also feature a choir, special guest musicians and a preview of the documentary.
Naturally, Czarnecki has not been without his own El Guapo in the face of these ambitious projects. "Self-doubt is something that I think we all struggle with," he says. "These guys [in the movie] had to decide if they were men or mice. As soon as we can celebrate those struggles, we can be the people we want to be."