When Matt Mlynarski steps onto the stage these days, he finds himself having to take smaller steps, and being careful not to bend his arms too far.

That’s because Mlynarski, 34, of Lower Burrell, in his own words, is “slowly turning into a clock,” in the form of the character Cogsworth from “Beauty and the Beast.”

Mlynarski and the cast are preparing for this weekend’s State Theatre Center for the Arts production of the Disney classic, an adaptation of the 1700s-era French fairy tale.

Mlynarski also is performing alongside one of his best friends, Randi Walker of Monroeville, who will take on the lead role of Belle at the Uniontown theater.

“Playing such an iconic character, it’s a challenge trying to remain true to everything people love about the original,” said Walker, 28. “I try to find little mannerisms and quirks that might remind people of the Belle they grew up with, but for the most part, I try to make her my own.”

Walker said she’s always loved to sing and has been hooked on musical performance ever since a friend convinced her to audition in high school.

“Acting teaches you empathy for others in a way that has made me a much more compassionate and thoughtful human,” she said. “I love the idea of putting myself in someone else’s shoes and living through their experiences.”

For Mlynarski, putting himself in Cogsworth’s shoes is a little more of a physical challenge.

“The costume definitely limits my mobility,” he said.

Rehearsals for the production, which opens Friday, began in June, with State Theatre officials running tandem rehearsals for both “Beauty and the Beast” as well as “Pippin,” which opened earlier this month.

“The production team for Summer at the State is lovely to work with, and the theater is gorgeous,” Mlynarski said.

Walker said she is enjoying working with the cast as they prepare for opening night.

“They’re all so supportive and crazy talented,” she said. “Plus, I get to do one of my dream shows with my best friend, Matt.”

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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