Monday, February 11, 2019

How to Score Great Discount Tickets for Silverwood

Silverwood Theme Park in Athol, Idaho.
ATTRACTIONS
While the idea of splishing and splashing around at a water park might sound pretty foreign right now, summer WILL come again and when it does, you’ll be happy that you took advantage of the discount tickets being offered from Silverwood and Boulder Beach theme parks.

Silverwood is offering a $13 discount on one-day tickets if purchased online before February 28, 2019. The $40 tickets gives access to both parks for adults and ticket for kids ages 3-7 are just $22. Those who are 3 and under get in free! Tickets are valid any one day during the 2019 season which runs from May 4th through September 29, 2019.

Silverwood is home to both state-of-the-art thrill rides and old school favorites and plenty of others in between the two. Silverwood features four high intensity roller coasters including Tremors, Timber Terror, the Corkscrew and Aftershock which at 191 feet, it not only takes you forwards through a cobra roll and inverted loop, but backwards as well. The Spincyle is truly frightening as the giant disc rotates 360 degrees at 13 revolutions per minute while swinging like a large pendulum as high as 104 feet above ground. You'll also find plenty of live entertainment, lots of good food, souvenir shops and photo ops with Garfield and Odie.

The other half of the park belongs to Boulder Beach which features lots of wet and wild waterslides of all shapes and sizes.

Silverwood is located at 27843 US-95 in Athol, ID, 83801.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Love Stories

Reading someone else's mail and not getting in trouble for it.
THEATRE
Letters Aloud will present Love Me or Leave Me reading real letters written by real people including the likes of Mark Twain, Frida Kahlo, Charles Bukowski, George Carlin, Virginia Woolf, Napoleon Bonaparte and others. It’s a way to “take a trip from the romantically sublime to the pathetically ridiculous!” say event organizers. Read by Jen Taylor, Paul Morgan Stetler, Robert Clendenin and Robertson Witmer, the readings will take place on February 17 at the Northshore Performing Arts Center located at 18125 92md Ave. NE in Bothell. Tickets are $27 for adults and $20 for students.

Comedy of Love

"Comedy of Love" at Unexpected Productions
THEATRE
Unexpected Productions is offering their annual Comedy of Love: A Valentine’s Day Improv again this year on that magical and romantic day held on February 14 at 8:30 p.m. Located at the Market Theatre found near the gum wall at Pike Place Market, the show will be made up on the spot by veteran performers inspired by the audiences suggestions presenting “scenes rife with passion, lust, heartbreak and everything in between.” Tickets are $17.50 and can be purchased ahead of time online. The theatre is located 1428 Post Alley in Seattle.

Blind Love

The Blind Cafe is something you've never seen before.
FOOD & DRINK
Yes, you’ve heard the culinary trend of eating in the dark, but The Blind Café has raised the experience up a notch with its “social change dinner, discussion and music” event weekend. The Blind Café is sort of a pop-up restaurant that tours around the country. They are setting up shop in Seattle during Valentine’s Day weekend offering two shows nightly on February 14-16, 2019. Guests will enjoy a vegan and gluten-free dinner with ingredients that have been collected locally, enjoy a Q&A session with legally blind ambassadors and enjoy live music from Rosh and the Blind Café Orchestra.

Dinner will be served at 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. at 2218 1st Ave. in Seattle. Tickets start at $125 and can be ordered online.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

‘Arsenic and Old Lace’ Feels Fresh and New at Taproot

Abby Brewster (Kim Morris), Mortinmer Brewster (Richard Nguyen Sloniker)
and Martha Brewster (Pam Nolte). (Phtoto: Erik Stuhaug)
THEATRE REVIEW
Joseph Kesselring’s “killer” play, Arsenic and Old Lace first opened on Broadway on January 10, 1941. The movie version starring Cary Grant opened in theaters in 1944. Since that time, the play has probably been presented by every high school drama class in the country numerous times. It’s one of those plays that “everyone” has seen and loved. However, it’s been a long time since any professional theater in Seattle has brought the classic back to stage (that I can recall at least) so it’s high time that should come about once again.

When performed correctly, Arsenic and Old Lace has a timeless quality to it despite how much our world has changed since it was written. The dark comedy has a real wit to it as a “fish out of water” type of story turned on its head. And I’m glad to say that Taproot does the playwright proud.

Mortimer (Richard Nguyen Sloniker) and
Jonathan (David Drummond) (Photo: Erik Stuhaug)
Arsenic and Old Lace features two of favorite local actresses in the lead roles. Kim Morris plays the headstrong but sweet Abby Brewster opposite Pam Nolte’s timid but equally sweet Martha Brewster, her sister. The two still live in the family home next to town’s church and graveyard and have a wonderful reputation by the locals as a couple of women looking out for others in their times of need. Living with them is their nephew Teddy Brewster (Stephen Grenley) who thinks he’s really Teddy Roosevelt and that the Panama Canal is located in the basement of the family home.

Also living with the spinster sisters, at least temporarily, is Teddy’s brother Mortimer (Richard Nguyen Sloniker) who is a theatre critic who hates the theatre. He has literally fallen in love with the girl next door, Elaine Harper (Elizabeth Keck), the daughter of Reverend Harper (Bill Johns) who disapproves of his daughter seeing an art critic afraid what has rubbed off onto him. A bit wacky, but everything seems normal enough until Mortimer finds a dead body in the house’s window seat. Things go downhill when he tells his aunts the shocking news and they aren’t surprised by it at all and plan to hold a Methodist funeral for the man.

This leads to more uncomfortable revelations about Mortimer’s family, hiding information from the police and the return of Teddy and Mortimer’s long lost brother, Jonathan (David Drummond). Looking like a Hollywood monster and seeking out a place of refuge with his plastic surgery doctor, Dr. Einstein (Nolan Palmer), Jonathan thinks that the old Brewster homestead would make for the perfect hideout. It’s enough to drive a guy to drink. Just don’t touch the homemade elderberry wine!

Abby (Kim Morris), Teddy (Stephen Grenley) and Jonathan
(David Drummod) (Photo: Erik Stuhaug)
There really isn’t a weak link with this production. All of the characters play their roles with intense earnestness and are able to utter the most absurd lines without losing character. Both Mark Lund’s multi-level set and Jocelyne Fowler’s costume designs are amazing. The Brewster home is so warm and inviting, you can totally see yourself curling up in the living room with a good book. (The Brewster’s should really consider opening it up as a B and B.)

Arsenic and Old Lace continues through March 2, 2019. Performance times are Wednesday-Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m. and an additional Saturday matinee performance at 2:00 p.m. Tickets range from $27-$50 depending on the performance. Visit the website for information about discount ticket options and special performances that include post-play discussions and more. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the box office at 206-781-9708. Taproot Theatre is located at 204 N. 85th St. in Seattle, 98103.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

REVIEW: Heartwarming ‘Matilda’ Could Be More Magical

Review of Village Theatre's "Matilda."
Nava Ruthfield as Matilda (Mark Kitaoka/Village Theatre)
THEATRE REVIEW
I didn’t know much about the story of Matilda before seeing Village Theatre’s production of the musical, but what I did know is that the main character develops telekinetic abilities that she uses as a way to get back to the people who have wronged her. Also knowing that the story is based on Roald Dahl’s book of the same name, I came to the theatre expecting to see something magical and I did; it just took a while.

The story of Matilda is a clever one that is played out with an upbeat tone even though it features some dark material, but should be praised for its positive messages about the importance of reading, standing up for what you believe is right and having sympathy for others. The show begins with a chorus of children singing the praises of themselves stating “My mommy says I’m a miracle” and “My daddy says I’m his special little guy.” Then the parents join in singing about the trials of being parents in unison and then overlapping with the kids. It’s as unique as it is catchy, but the point of the scene is showing how most kids are loved by their parents. That’s not the case for Matilda Wormwood.

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Review of Village Theatre's "Matilda."
Nava Ruthfield (Matilda), Ann Cornelius (Mrs. Wormwood),
Chris Ensweiler (Mr. Wormwood), and Maddox Baker (Michael).
(Mark Kitaoka/Village Theatre)
The next scene shows Mrs. Wormwood (Ann Cornelius) at the doctor’s office finding out that her “condition” is actually a case of being nine month pregnant and is about to give birth at any moment. She makes it clear that she doesn’t want another child as she has a ballroom competition to attend. Mr. Wormwood (the great Chris Ensweiler) arrives right after the birth of Matilda and is disappointed that she isn’t a boy.

The story fast forwards years later and things haven’t changed much. Matilda’s brother is too interested in the TV to notice her, Mrs. Wormwood gets annoyed listening to her stories and Mr. Wormwood continues to call her “boy.” Matilda’s only friends are the ones she reads about in books and Mrs. Phelps (Shaunyce Omar) the local librarian who unlike her mother, loves listening to Matilda’s stories.

School isn’t much better for Matilda (played by Holly Reichert or Nava Ruthfield depending on which performance you attend). She and the other “miracles” have high hopes for school only to have them dashed by the older kids telling them horror stories about the school principal Miss Trunchball (Basil Harris) who was a champion hammer thrower who tends to throw kids around as well. She demands discipline even when the kids haven’t done anything wrong. (Her relationship with the children isn’t much different from Miss Hanigan’s from Annie.) At least her teacher, Miss Honey (Marissa Ryder) is nice. She loves to teach and appreciates her students’ clever personalities.
There is much to like in Matilda. As always, the set design is amazing. This time around, Matthew Smucker replaced traditional curtains with giant chalkboards that open from different angles giving the sets a whimsical look. The library scene features a literal floor to ceiling wall of books. Special effects include story characters coming to life accented by fog and lights. (You have to feel bad for conductor Josh Archibald-Seiffer and the ochestra trying to see their music sheets at times.)

Review of Village Theatre's "Matilda."
The "kids" and Miss Trunchbull (Basil Harris)
(Mark Kitaoka/Village Theatre)
The Wormwood family are over-the-top caricatures, but Ann Cornelius is especially good in her solo musical number, “Loud” singing about the virtues of highlighting one’s looks. And Basil Harris’ characterization as Miss Trunchbull almost steals the show. In fact, the title of the show could easily be changed to Trunchbull and I don’t think anyone would care. He’s hilarious and earnest in this once-in-a-lifetime role.

There are a number of songs that resonate too including “Naughty” where Matilda sings about how sometimes one has to do something naughty to make a difference and “When I Grow Up” has a multi-generational message of not waiting until one “grows up” to become strong enough to make a difference.

However, it is unfortunate that this version of the production misses the mark somewhat. For starters, unlike Annie, half of the students are played by actual children while other older kids are played by adult veteran actors. The mix doesn’t really work. When the older ones are introduced it’s unclear if they are fellow students, ghosts from the past, or just what. It’s hard to accept a bearded man or one who is bald to be a child. Both kids and adults are good in their roles, but the adults overshadow the younger ones at times. Meanwhile, the younger ones ham it up on stage with over exaggerated movements and facial expressions in hopes of getting a laugh. They haven’t learned about the art of timing of a joke and it’s uncomfortable at times.

Although there really isn’t any reason to keep the setting of the story in England, it is and because of that, we get a wide range of English accents from all of the actors making it difficult to understand what they are actually saying at times. Many of the songs are well-written with great lyrics, but they get lost. It all sounds like a lot of mumbling.

Review of Village Theatre's "Matilda."
Miss Honey (Marissa Ryder) and Matilda (Mark Kitaoka/Village Theatre)
Thirdly, the show is slow moving focusing on scenes that seemingly don’t forward the story, while others that are crucial to the story-telling get lost. (For instance, Matilda continues to share a story with Mrs. Phelps throughout the show, and it turns out that it is important, so pay attention.) The fact that Matilda can move things with her mind doesn’t come into play until the second half of Act II after the intermission. It almost feels like an afterthought.

Finally, there is a lack of connection between the characters. It’s odd that Matilda gets angry when things are “not right” but isn’t really sad that she isn’t loved by her parents. The kids at school never really seem like they are friends with each other. One proudly states that she her “best friend” is Matilda, but there doesn’t seem to be any evidence of that. Miss Honey lacks chemistry with her students too, but does better with Matilda one-on-one. To be fair, this may have to do with Miss Honey’s fear of failure. The best interaction between characters is between Matilda and Mrs. Phelps which seems genuine and natural.

Matilda continues its run at the Everett Performing Arts Center through February 3, 2019. The theatre is located at 2710 Wetmore Avenue in Everett, 98201. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the box office at 425.257.8600.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

'Noteworthy Life' is Not Your Typical Musical

The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes
"The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes" (Mark Kitaoka/Village Theatre)
THEATRE REVIEW
Maggie: “Maybe you’re in a new musical.”

Howard: “Is that good?”

Maggie: “Not if you want anyone to see it.”

Those are lines from Village Theatre’s world premiere show, The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes about a guy who finds himself stuck in a musical. That statement is very true for a lot of new shows as it takes some trust going to a new show when you don’t already know some of the music. But in this case, I think it is an exception. Much of the music featured in the new production is toe-tapping and catchy and for that matter, it's one funny show too. That’s not to say that it a perfect production, but certainly an entertaining one on many levels.

The premise of the show is that Howard Barnes is an average Joe kind of guy. There’s nothing really special about him. He’s a single, hockey-loving guy still nursing a broken heart of a previous relationship when suddenly he finds himself in the middle of a musical which sort of plays out like an extended dream sequence. At about 90 minutes in length, it is one of the shortest musicals out there, but it plays with no intermission. I suppose that’s so you don’t lose continuity or something.

The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes
Perhaps ironically, this show is at its best at the beginning when things are pretty simple. Howard (Joshua Carter) lives in New York City (the set of his apartment is great) and his odd neighbor brings him some of his mail that got delivered to him by mistake. That’s when Howard starts to hear music. He goes to bed and suddenly he’s magically brought to the city streets where everyone around him sings “Welcome to Today,” a catchy little tune that will stick in your head for a while (a good sign of a new musical). Then Howard is magically brought to his office with some mysterious co-workers singing around him, but nobody else notices them. He has an awkward encounter with one co-worker, Maggie (Taryn Darr) who he clearly has a crush on, before he’s brought to a hockey game. And who should show up to said game? Maggie. The crowd is shouting to the players on the ice when suddenly one of them shouts at Howard to “Shoot the Puck,” a metaphor for “ask the girl out on a date!” The crowd, still seemingly interested in the game, continue to encourage Howard in song to “shoot the puck” while Maggie watches the games oblivious of what is happening around her. This is not only one of the show’s best songs, but it is the best scene in the musical period. This is when the play is its simplest. A musical is happening all around Howard, but he’s the only one who can hear it. Very clever and I wish the rest of the show was like this, but it’s not.

Howard gets transported again back to his apartment and his ex-girlfriend Grace (Jasmine Jean Sim) shows up in his closet wearing a wedding gown. She simultaneously teases him about being commitment phobic while encouraging him to live life to the fullest. She pops up over and over again in the show and it’s hard to figure out if she is the show’s villain or if she’s doing work as a godmother type of character.

The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes
Eventually, Howard confesses to Maggie about his dilemma, who surprisingly takes it well. It is here that the show feels like a whole different one going down a rabbit hole or a trip similar to the one Dorothy had to during The Wizard of Oz. Maggie is now an unrealistic character trying to help Howard to get out of “his musical.” In order to do so, they must find the great Von Schwartzenheim (Jeff Steitzer who is ALWAYS great on stage) who has written the best musicals ever known, on how to escape. In my opinion, this is a mistake. Some of the scenes that follow work really well while others fall flat. The show manages to poke fun at other forms of theatre (the “Let It Out” number with the “experimental” artists is especially great) while also including a variety of characters and lines from such well-known musicals. This is actually pretty fun for those who have seen a lot of musicals over the years. Many of the characters in this show pop up as characters they played before including Mallory King as Mary Poppins, Sarah Russell as one of the Dreamgirls and Greg McCormick Allen as the Musicman. Other musicals represented include Annie, Peter Pan, Hairspray, Cats, Chicago, Avenue Q and even Hamilton! The show even breaks through the fourth wall involving the audience a bit.

All in all, this is a fun show that is unlike any you have seen before it, but it also feels unpolished as is. There are a few too many clever ideas here and I appreciated many of the things they bring up like the problem with dance sequences or those boring songs thrown in your favorite musical which feel as if they are only there to extend the length of the show. Some of these references work while other don’t. There are also a few crass lines that take the innocent quality away from the show and some scenes that while are entertaining, don’t really make much sense to the story at all. Of course, everything ends up happy in the end, but this isn’t a show for families.



The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes continues its run at the Everett Performing Arts Center through November 18. Tickets can be purchased online or by call the box office at 425.257.8600.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Taproot's 'Baskerville' is a Hilarious, Yet Faithful, Sherlock Holmes Adventure

Review of "Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery."
Michael Patten and Reginald André Jackson (Photos by Erik Stuhaug)
THEATRE REVIEW

While perhaps not intending to, Taproot Theatre’s production of Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery offers a unique alternative to the usual Halloween fare around town. Of all of the Sherlock Holmes tales, The Hound of the Baskervilles is the most Halloween-ish story with a mysterious creature killing people in swampy area. Baskerville takes the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle mystery and turns it into a family-friendly Halloween special. Though it only runs through October 20, chances are fairly good that it might be extended and continue throughout the month. I have no way of knowing for sure, so you’ll want to get your tickets now just to be safe.

Review of "Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery."
Eric Hampton
Director Scott Nolte puts a little of his own sense of humor into this show which is already hilarious while also being faithful to the source material. In the story, Dr. James Mortimer pleads with Sherlock to investigate the death of his friend Sir Charles Baskerville who died on the grounds of his own estate reportedly attacked by a gigantic beast. Some say the death was part of curse. Mortimer tells Sherlock that he fears for Sir Charles’ nephew, Sir Henry, the sole heir of the estate, who plans to move into the now-vacant home. Fearing that Henry might suffer the same fate, he asks Sherlock to look into this mystery, something Sherlock has no trouble getting interested in.

Review of "Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery."
Michael Patten, Elizabeth Keck, 
Nick Watson and Reginald André Jackson
In Baskerville, the story is given a comedy treatment with all 35 characters being played by only five actors. Okay, to be fair, Michal Patten and Reginald Andre Jackson play Holmes and Dr. Watson. It’s the other three actors who portray the other 33 characters. This calls for quick costume and character changes throughout along with a few technical mishaps and hi-jinx. The other actors are Nick Watson, Elizabeth Keck and Eric Hampton. Together, this troupe creates the perfect ensemble comedy where Sherlock is the main character, but not necessarily the star of the show. The honor is pretty much evenly spread between the five.

Baskerville is different in another way too. This Sherlock is bit different than what we usually see. Yes, his deductive reasoning is still uncanny to be sure, but this detective is more playful and fun. He’s smart, but not overly intellectual. The story also presents a unique friendship between Doctor Watson and Sir Henry (Nick Watson), a cowboy from Canada. There is also a large section of the play where Sherlock doesn’t appear at all, making this friendship even more important. If played by less talented actors, the story would surely drag.

Designed by Richard Lorig, the cartoonish set with it’s bright blue and purple colors serves as another character and plays multiple roles as well with quick change projections designed by Mark Lund. There is a lot going on here leaving a lot of room for mistakes, but the production I saw was nearly flawless.

As of now, Baskerville continues through October 20. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the box office at (206) 781-9707. Taproot Theatre is located at 204 N. 85th St., Seattle 98103. Parking can be a bit tricky, so be sure to look at the Theatre’s suggestions on their website and leave early enough before the show to find a spot.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Cirque Du Soleil “Wows” With New Show

Review of Cirque Du Soleil's "Volta."
Volta (photo credit: Patrice Lamoureux)
REVIEW
A few things you can always count on when watching a Cirque Du Soleil performance: The show will always be artsy, the acts will always be amazing, the costumes will be crazy and there will almost always be some weirdness involved. Volta, the circus company’s traveling show here for a limited time features all of those elements but this show is probably one of the most family-friendly shows that features stunts that “real” kids could master themselves if they work hard at it.

Focusing a lot on extreme sports this time around, Volta attempts to share a storyline about a young teenager who doesn’t fit in with the usual crowd who march in unison staring at the cell phones all wearing the same grey clothes. He attempts to show off his talent for the “Mr. Wow Show” only to be laughed at off the stage. (The cast and crew of the “Mr. Wow Show” look like they just stepped out of “The Hunger Games” movie) He is then befriended by a group of (literally) colorful characters who don’t dress or act alike and convince him that he is more like them. Or something.

Review of Cirque Du Soleil's "Volta."
(Photo: Michael Kass)
Volta is said to be “about being true to oneself, fulfilling one’s true potential, and recognizing one’s own power to make it possible. Ultimate freedom comes with self-acceptance, and with the liberation of the judgement of others.” While this production is incredible, the storytelling is confusing at best. Many of the acts do not fit into this theme either, which is fine really. Just don’t expect to be moved by the message. Instead, be surprised by how many times you say “wow” out loud watching the show.

Volta is Cirque du Soleil’s 41’st original show since 1984 and 18th featured under the “big top.” This particular show features artists from the USA, Canada, Finland, Brazil, Italy, Uruguay, Australia, Japan, France, the UK, Russia, China, South Africa, Slovakia, Cambodia and Poland. The costumes that they wear were designed by Zaldy Godo who has done work for the likes of Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson, Britney Spears and others. The set is simply a circle with the audience sitting up closer than the usual performance.

Review of Cirque Du Soleil's "Volta."
(Photos: Michael Kass and BenoitZ)
Andrey Kislitsin from Russia plays Mr. Wow who is also the show’s resident clown. He is a young clown who masters older clown techniques. Kids will love this guy who is not only funny, but sweats buckets during his routines. As for the acts, there is a nice mix of things you’ve never seen or thought possible and surprisingly, they aren’t perfect. But what makes this show so great is that when an artist fails on their mission, they are encouraged for their fellow artists and the audience alike to try it again. When they do and succeed, the crowd goes wild. Everyone watching is rooting for all of the performers to win.

Volta’s show’s acts includes:

The Mr. Wow Show
Featuring amazing rope skipping tricks, a man spinning around in a giant ring and larger-than-life costumed judges.

Meeting Ela
This is when the cool, colorful kids coming in performing a bunch of street sports including roller skates and an amazing unicycle act.


Review of Cirque Du Soleil's "Volta."
(Photo: Michael Kass and BenoitZ)
Guardian Angel in the City
Pawel Walczewski performs what is called the “Acro Lamp,” which looks like dining room table that he glides around in the air upon.

Rise & Shine
A bunch of characters jumping on large trampoline and bouncing off the walls. One of the best acts of the night.

Mr. Wow’s Nightmare
The clown attempts to do laundry with some trouble.

Daydreaming
This is one unusual act that features a BMX bike rider and a ballet dancer and surprisingly, it works.

Review of Cirque Du Soleil's "Volta."
Intervention
Perhaps my favorite act of the night included dropping two women from the ceiling on bungees alternating with eight guys swinging on Swiss rings and doing flips.

Leaving the City
Two performers do a balancing act on a contraption called the acrobatic ladder that folds up.

Urban Jungle
This fun act features a group of performers jumping through various shapes at different heights.

La Page
Mr. Wow goes to the beach.

Mirage
This “hair-raising” performance is just incredible. Danila Bim from Brazil flies around the big top by her hair! Besides looking painful, it was a beautiful production. (Don’t try this at home.)

Breakthrough
The kid shows his stuff in a contemporary dance act

Momentum
An amazing performance featuring a bunch of BMX bike riders and glass-paneled ramps the turn on the giant turntable.

Overall, Volta isn’t as extravagant as previous shows. It does feature fire or water effects, but it does feature a large turntable and some clever set designs. Instead of the usual big closing number/production, Volta only features the cast to run out around the stage, wave and then run back. It was a bit disappointing, but overall, this is another show not to be missed.

Volta continues playing at Marymoor Park through November 4, 2018 with tickets starting at $39. (Tickets can be purchased online here.) Marymore Park is also changing $20 for parking. Marymoor Park is located at 6046 West Lake Sammamish Parkway NE, Redmond, WA 98052.