Robert Louis Stevenson wrote in Virginus Puerisque that 'to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labour'. For Hong Kong's Canto-pop god Jacky Cheung Hok-yau, the travel and the labour has certainly been a worthwhile effort. 'The road to success is filled with knowledge,' he said. 'Each successful stage brings new confidence.' It thanks to this increased confidence that Cheung is now ready to tackle his latest venture, a home-grown Hong Kong stage musical tentatively titled Snow Wolf Lake, even though it has been an idea that he has been toying with for the past five years. 'After my concerts last year, I really didn't know what to do next,' Cheung said. 'For shows like that, the production costs are high, there is some singing and dancing but other than that changes are small. 'I was already toying with the idea of doing a stage musical in 1991. But I didn't think it was the right time.' But after a successful round-the-world concert tour and platinum discs galore, Cheung finally decided it was now or never. 'I think what I have achieved makes me confident to take on something like that and gives the audience enough confidence to walk into the hall and watch,' he said. 'I've seen how well overseas musicals have been doing here so I assume the local market is already interested. These two factors work together.' Cheung, who left for New York this week for stage lessons, described the musical as a 'happily-ever-after love story'. He plays a cool loner who meets and falls in love with a girl. The other 30-odd roles have not been filled yet, but Cheung and organisers, Fun Entertainment, have cast their net worldwide to invite applications for auditions. The shows have been scheduled for next March. The 35-year-old singer will be playing an active part in the production, and contributed to the story. He will sit in on the last of the three auditions. Cheung is not investing in the production but is willing to take a cut in his fees if the production costs become too high. 'I have never been good with investments,' he said. 'But I can appreciate that the costs can be very much higher than a normal concert. 'I don't want the organisers to lose money, so I would be willing to accept less money to realise this dream of mine.' Singaporean performer Dick Lee has been approached to help out with the original music although some of Cheung's ballads might also be used. 'It depends. Our stand is that we will choose the best for the show,' Cheung said. 'If the new songs are more suitable, then we will use those, but if not, then some of my songs may be used.' There are tentative plans for taking the show on the road although nothing has been finalised. Cheung said transport costs for the show would be high: 'For the concerts, all we need is to pack up the dancers and the bands - and myself - and go. But for the musical, we need to rebuild a stage and bring the props.' Under such conditions, he said, any travelling would be limited to longer runs in big cities so that people from outside the city could commute to see the show if they were interested. 'But everything starts from here,' he said. 'We'll then see how or if it spreads to the whole region or other places. 'After my world tour last year, I have discovered what I can and cannot do. We always have to start from here and be flexible.' Cheung is not sure how successful his musical will be but said that he has no fears. 'After so many years in the business and having experienced so much, I think I am mature enough to face anything,' he said. There are also plans for Cheung to record his first English-language album next year but he will come to that project after the musical. And his years in the business have also taught him not to rush things. 'It seems a bit of a late start but you have to do things one stage at a time,' he said. 'I've tried doing everything at once before. I was trying to tackle both the Cantonese and the Mandarin market together, and didn't do well. In fact, to me, I failed. 'So I gave one up and concentrated on the Cantonese releases first. Once that base was steady, I then took on Mandarin songs. This way, you can cut down on your work. 'All you do is just add on to it. The same thing will apply to my English album. 'The English album is something that I am doing to satisfy myself. I grew up on English songs and it gives me a nostalgic feeling. That's why I want to record an album.' Cheung denied there had been any meticulous planning in the course of his career, but rather, his strategy had been to tackle each level as it came. 'Sometimes you don't need to do that much planning,' he said. 'When you are doing something, other things that you can do come along. That's how I have found it to be. 'If you can do it, good. But even if it's not immediate, it does not matter. If you can't do something today, it does not mean you won't be able to do it a week, a month, or several years later. You should take your time.' With the fuss over his 'record-breaking' 100-show concerts this year, and the rave reviews that have been pouring in from foreign newspapers, it might seem there are not many mountains left for him to climb. 'There was a time when I was concerned with being popular and record sales,' Cheung said. 'You keep trying to outdo yourself in these areas. Now, I look to improve myself and achieve higher standards in my performance. 'There are always plenty of things to challenge yourself with. Every time you do anything, you always have to think about how to improve. 'My singing is not perfect; it can still be worked on. I have no experience in musical plays so I'm going to New York to take lessons. That is the only way - you try, you ask and then you learn.' Cheung conceded that his priorities had changed in the past few years although not as a result of his successful concerts: 'It isn't such a record-breaking feat when you really look at it objectively. The world is so much smaller these days and there are more and more Chinese communities overseas, that's why you can have more shows these days.' With the concerts - and the 1997 deadline looming - Cheung is aware the word on the street is that he is thinking of packing his bags and quitting showbusiness. After all, he can certainly afford to now. But the crooner has no intention of doing that yet. 'I don't blame people for thinking that way,' Cheung said. 'After all, that is the way things have always been done before. You do a lot of concerts, make a lot of money and then retire. The only way to prove that I don't intend to do that is to keep working.' But, work though he may, it will be on his own terms and not on what the market wants from him, and the chase for the annual music awards. Getting an interview with the singing star is no easy task these days. This one took more than two months to set up, because Cheung prefers interviews at press conferences or shows. The only one-on-one interview one is likely to get might be a game of tennis, which he tries to play regularly, 'to keep fit'. 'If I exercise regularly then it won't be that difficult to get back in shape when I really need to,' he said. 'I'm not really interested in playing the [Canto-pop market] game anymore. To do that you have to play by their rules, you know, release two Cantonese discs a year, do the promotional rounds. 'I am now starting to understand why some people would rather quit the race. 'If you have new directions and new targets, you should just follow your own planning, and stop thinking of old things.' It seems like Cheung has already written off the past and is rewriting his rules to a whole new ballgame. And, after 13 years of singing, he is 'relieved' he can afford to.