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"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" gallops to Theatre IV. 

"Hollow" Fills In Nicely

If the prospect of a headless horseman galloping across the stage has you afraid to bring the wee ones to "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," now playing at the Empire Theatre, you can rest easy. This big-stage adaptation of a Theatre IV touring show stresses frivolity over fear, goofiness over gore. Frantic music and a red-eyed horse certainly make for a spooky climax to this classic tale from Washington Irving. But my underage companions were more scared by the funereal organ music and thunderous lightning effects that started the show.

After that ominous beginning, a light-hearted tone dominates "Sleepy Hollow," epitomized by the show's protagonist, Ichabod Crane (Cliff Todd). The affable but pompous Crane is the new schoolteacher in the late 18th-century New England town of Sleepy Hollow. He is soon captivated by the lovely Katrina Van Tassel (Mandy Tate), who uses Crane's attentions to infuriate her erstwhile suitor, Brom Bones (Mike Hiller).

Todd pulls double duty as the show's director. He wisely focuses on the brains vs. brawn battle between Ichabod and Brom, orchestrating some delightfully funny pratfalls as they try to impress Katrina. Todd's Ichabod is all bluster and pretension, making Hiller's brutish Brom his perfect foil. Tate overcomes a ridiculous boom-ba-da-boom entrance to make Katrina a transparently self-centered coquette.

An entertaining supporting cast moves the hour-long play along swiftly with an energetic James E. Opher generating several laughs in various roles. Designer Gregg Hillmar's set is dominated by a rickety bridge and huge trees that he uses to create an atmosphere alternately sleepy and spooky.

Adults might quibble about its less-than-satisfactory resolution but, for its intended audience, the show offers plenty of enchanting diversions. Only the tiniest of tots will be frightened — most will be charmed — by the cheerful spunk of this "Sleepy Hollow."

"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" runs through Nov. 7 at Theatre IV's Empire Theatre. Tickets are $14 in advance, $16 on day of show. Call 344-8040 for
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