"What's happening? Why are they being mean to her? Where are they going? Who are they? What are they doing?"

This was the endless stream of questions coming from the little boy behind us. He was confused and frankly, so were we. Props to his mum for trying to answer his quandaries because I certainly couldn't.

Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1982 musical Cats is considered a classic but like most things from that decade, it hasn't aged gracefully. Not even a 21st Century rap number can modernise this stale feline tale.

See Spy's photos from Cat's opening night gala
Cats is a musical for those who love spectacle rather than theatre (or plot). The choreography is incredible and well executed but nothing can distract from the fact there is no story behind it. A fact that leads to confusion, distraction and ultimately boredom.

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The lack of plot could well stem from the fact the entire two-hour show is based on a poem.

When the musical first hit the stage in 1982, the concept of an entire show driven by song and dance numbers was relatively new and clearly captivated audiences. Cats ran for 20 years in London's West End and is one of the world's most beloved musicals.

But as someone discovering the show for the first time, whatever appeal it held in the 80s isn't quite clear now.

The cast of Cats
The cast of Cats

However, the audience was definitely on side for the fun of the night; cat ears and leopard print tops were spotted all over The Civic and the jauntier numbers got plenty of laughs and applause. But even those embracing the show seemed to struggle with the cheesiness at times.

"Oh god," the woman next to me whispered, cringing, when a rapping Rum Tum Tugger entered the stage.

Wearing fake dreads and a backwards cap saying "Chaos", the so-called modernised version of the character felt painfully like a 90s D.A.R.E. skit trying to be "down with the kids".

"He is a cat but he has a singlet [because] he is a naughty cat," surmised the little boy behind me.

Honestly, his take was probably about as subtle as whoever pitched the idea to make the Rum Tum Tugger "street".

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Overall, Cats is a bit of silly fun that can hold the attention of small children, even when they have no idea what's going on. But as my plus-one said afterward: "There was never a moment where I wasn't acutely aware I was watching adults dressed as cats."

- nzherald.co.nz