News & Politics

Local Challah Makes It Big in “Fiddler on the Roof” at the National Theatre

How does a loaf of bread get cast in a musical?

Recently, news arrived that Woodley Park shop Baked by Yael will be providing the bread used onstage in Fiddler on the Roof at the National Theatre, which hits DC from December 10 to 15. While we have a pretty good notion of how actors land roles in theatrical productions, we were curious about what’s involved in casting the perfect challah for your musical. How did Baked by Yael’s loaf score the coveted role of “bread” in this beloved theatrical classic?  

Baked by Yael owner Yael Krigman describes her challah as “honest” and “authentic”—just the kind of thing that Fiddler higher-ups were looking for to fill the braided-bread part in DC. The role demands a high level of authenticity for its big scene during a Sabbath meal, and it’s easy to imagine the casting staff considering such traits as plumpness (it has to be visible from the back row), shininess (what could be lovelier than the stage lights dancing off a perfect egg wash?), and density (the challah must hold up to handling, after all). 

So what was the audition process like? Were perfect loaves lined up for blocks outside the theater, desperate for their chance to shine? Well, no—there actually wasn’t any audition process. It turns out the creative team only reached out to Krigman. “I think they asked us based on reputation, to be honest,” Krigman says. “They will not be disappointed, I can tell you that. To be able to see it up there on stage will be a tremendous honor. Our challah has finally made it big.”

The Baked by Yael challah’s breakthrough moment is coming after almost ten years of hard work and training on the part of its maker. Krigman has been selling baked goods in the area since 2010, but she only recently introduced her challah, which went on sale at her store this July. “Our customers kept asking us when we were going to have challah,” she says. “The thing with challah is, everybody has an idea of what it’s supposed to be. We really wanted to make sure that it was perfect.”

Sure enough, Fiddler on the Roof‘s head of props, Cailin Kucera, says the challah has thus far been performing admirably, even if it will likely need to be replaced several times. It is a perishable food, after all, plus it has a way of disappearing at the end of its performance. “Our entire company just absolutely loves this type of bread,” says Kucera. “Any time we have extra or when it comes offstage, they’re just so excited to [eat] it.”

Krigman believes her challah has a bright future, even if its theatrical career proves short-lived. There is one issue back at the shop, however. “We have not told the bagels,” she says. “We are nervous about how they will react, so until we find a play for the bagels to be in, we’re just going to keep this between us.”

Jane Recker
Assistant Editor

Jane is a Chicago transplant who now calls Cleveland Park her home. Before joining Washingtonian, she wrote for Smithsonian Magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times. She is a graduate of Northwestern University, where she studied journalism and opera.