Six-time Tony Award-nominated orchestrator and bandleader Harold Wheeler, who led a 28-member group of musicians and singers on the ABC reality competition "Dancing With the Stars," has been let go — along with his band — from the popular television series, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
The Harold Wheeler Orchestra and Singers has performed on the show for 17 seasons. It is reported that live music will continue to be "a large component on the show"; however, details of the new arrangement have not been announced.
A joint statement from BBC Worldwide Productions and ABC reads, "Our talented music director, Harold Wheeler, will not be joining us for season 18 of 'Dancing With the Stars.' Since season one, Harold and his band have performed brilliant music in our ballroom for our dancers and the American viewers at home. We are grateful to him and his band for their amazing work and years of collaboration. We wish him the best of luck."
The American Federation of Musicians (AFM) has also issued a statement in support of Wheeler and the original orchestra and singers.
"People who love 'Dancing with the Stars' also love the superb performances of the orchestra because it is such an integral part of the show," said AFM president Ray Hair in a statement. "The tight, elaborate musical productions that catapulted the show into the top 10 in 17 countries can't be duplicated by recordings and a small combo. Viewers, whether they are young or old, will reject that as artistic fraud."
Wheeler has been Tony-nominated for the orchestrations of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Hairspray, The Full Monty, Swing!, Little Me and The Life.
The reality competition, which pairs stars with professional dancers, has featured a slew of Broadway performers. "Glee" and Cotton Club Parade star Amber Riley was named last season's winner.
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