Broadway theater's Tony Award for best orchestrations, presented Sunday night at the Winter Garden Theatre in Manhattan, went to Northport-raised Justin Levine for his work on the hit "Moulin Rouge! The Musical."
A first-time Tony nominee, Levine, 36, shared the award with teammates Katie Kresek, Charlie Rosen and Matt Stine for the show, based on the 2001 Baz Luhrmann movie. The Broadway musical, which opened in July 2019 at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre after 24 previews, went on hiatus in March 2020 because of the pandemic but reopened Friday.
Following the win, Levine told the podcast "Real Talk With Mason Bray" that after working initially with director Alex Timbers and playwright John Logan on the show, he brought in Stine as his music producer. Then "very early on," he said, "I knew that [Kresek and Rosen] would have to be part of the process, both for their incredible musical abilities, but also because of their kindness and their humanity and their ingenuity with their instruments — Charlie being just a master of the horns and Katie knowing how to make strings just sing in such not only really beautiful ways but really surprising ways."
Levine, whose mother Judy Adolph still lives in Northport, had grown up writing and performing family skits with his cousins, and became self-taught on piano and guitar. At Northport High School, he was in the choir, the orchestra, the jazz band and the Powdered Wigs Club, which mounts an annual musical. In April, he made a remote appearance for current students there, talking about his career, describing Broadway behind-the-scenes and offering advice about working in the arts.
He began doing musical direction while still a drama student at New York University, and eventually orchestrated, conducted and provided musical direction for the 2010 Broadway musical "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" after first working on it Off-Broadway.
In-between that show and "Moulin Rouge!," he variously provided orchestrations and musical direction for Off-Broadway's "Murder Ballad," "Here Lies Love" and "The Robber Bridegroom," and composed original music for the Public Theater's 2017 Shakespeare in the Park production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." He also has worked Off-Off-Broadway and in regional theater, including at Chicago's Goodman Theatre, and has performed music both solo and with the Clinton Curtis Band.
"It’s been a bit of a whirlwind," Levine, who now lives in Manhattan, said in a brief email to Newsday, explaining, "I'm in transit on my way to London."