Almost immediately after its release in 1936, the anti-drug propaganda film Reefer Madness (first titled, ominously, Tell Your Children) became a parody of itself, thanks to its overwrought warnings that demon weed would turn nice kids into zombies and nymphomaniacs.

The film became a cult hit, thanks to its ludicrousness, and has been viewed ironically by Americans ever since. It’s almost surprising, then, that it wasn’t till the nineties that a sendup of the film was forged, a lively musical with music by Dan Studney and lyrics by Kevin Murphy. “Reefer Madness: The Musical” at its best is a production that takes advantage of the film’s tenets, including sex, cannibalism, murder and mayhem. It was a hit off Broadway and was made into a movie in 2005.

The University of Southern Maine, in its own production of “Reefer Madness” at its Gorham campus theater, Russell Hall, running now until March 20, is staging an exuberant rendition of the play. A joint (see what we did there?) effort of the school’s music and theater programs, the production is bolstered by live musicians and fast-paced, superb choreography by Portland Ballet’s Vanessa Beyland (also a USM musical theater dance professor), and the students give it great comic energy.

Swell kid Jimmy Harper (Eric Berry-Sandelin) seems like a perfect fit for clean cut Mary Lane (Ali Sarnacchiaro) and they seem headed for Romeo and Juliet-style bliss (they’re unaware of that play’s ending) until Jimmy gets way-laid by Mary Jane. Hijinks — grotesque, silly, and preposterous hijinks — ensue.

The play is a commentary on the original Reefer Madness’s delusional attempt to frightening parents into scaring their kids straight. But it could also be seen as a broader swipe at America’s other hysterical obsessions, like its preoccupation with Communism. “Stealthy as a socialist, it slithers up our shores,” is one bouncy lyric. “Turning all our children into hooligans and whores!” Hooligans and socialists and whores, oh my! Considering the nation’s expanding legalization of “demon weed” and of the presidential election’s favorite candidates, those may actually be compliments to some.

This is not a plot-driven story, however; its ridiculousness prevents that, and given its paranoid origins, plot would be hardly the point. Rather, the production is filled with campy, clever songs, and the ensemble numbers are particularly joyous.

It’s worth noting that these performers aren’t miked — except for a Vegas-style act from Jesus — so the audience gets to enjoy an old-fashioned musical theater experience. The actors and technicians delivered at a swift pace that only added to its charm and farce, and even at a dress rehearsal performance there wasn’t a discernible hitch.

As fun and silly as it is, this isn’t an event for everybody. Not only is it aimed at mature audiences — all the inhaling and sexual contortions guarantee that — but making light of drug use and even the campy peer pressure seen on stage could bother some people dealing with recovery issues. And don’t come to this play if you don’t want to see religion take something of a comic beating.

Daphne Howland is a freelance writer based in Portland.